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BS 527 .R67 1906 

Rosenau, William, 1865-1943] 

Jewish Biblical commentators 


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COPYRIflHT, 1906 









During the winter of the scholastic year 1905-1906, 
the author delivered a course of lectures, on the subject 
of which this book treats, before the Oriental Seminary 
of the Johns Hopkins University, At the conclusion of 
the course, some of the students expressed the desire of 
possessing the lectures in permanent form. Acting on 
this wish, on the consciousness that few people know 
anything of the contribution of Jews to the science of 
Biblical criticism, and on the hope that a word on the 
subject may be welcome, the author herewith presents 
the results of his investigation in popular form. Foot- 
notes, giving more exhaustive explanations, have been 
omitted, because lacking in interest for the majority of 
readers. Not all Biblical commentators have been 
treated in this book, as not all are of equal importance. 
Only such have been considered as represent distinct 
schools of criticism. W. R. 



The Talmudic Period 13 

Karaites and Saadia 33 

Grammartaxs and Lexicographers 49 

Rashi axd The Tossafists 63 

Ibn Ezra and The Kimchis 79 

Maimonides and Nachmanides 95 

Mendelssohn and The Biurists 113 

The Nineteenth Century Critics 129 


Index 149 



Commentators of the Talmudic Period 

Biblical Exegesis is not a new science. Long before 
the modern schools of Biblical criticism made their first 
attempts to unravel the mysteries, explain the perplexi- 
ties, and give the history of Scriptures, people devoted 
themselves to the study of the Bible. While it can not be 
denied, that Biblical scholars all the way from Well- 
hausen back to Santes Pagninus, a Dominican Monk of 
the sixteenth century, rendered valuable service to the 
cause, it can also not be disputed, that the preliminary 
work, done by others, living between the first and six- 
teenth centuries, made the task of the more recent critics, 
comparatively easy. It may, in very truth, be asserted, 
that the moderns built upon the discoveries and theories 
of the ancients, in this, the Biblical, as well as in all 
other intellectual disciplines, 

Xor should it be imagined, when reference is made 
to the activity of earlier critics, that acknowledgement 
is given merely to such men as the Epicurean philoso- 
pher Celsus, the Neo-Platonist Porphyry, the Greek Ha- 
drian, the African bishop Junilius, Cassiodorus, St. Je- 
rome, St. Augustine, Nicolas de Lyra and others. Sight 
should never be lost of the activity of Jews in Biblical 
Exegesis, not only up to, but also after the sixteenth cen- 
tury. The Jews, in fact, may be said to have called into 
life the science of Biblical Exegesis. It matters little, 
whether their method of interpretation is regarded scien- 

14 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

tific in the modern acceptation of the term " scientific." 
The fact remains, that they studied the Bible, with the 
object of acquiring a thorough knowledge, not merely of 
the " Tendenz " of every one of the component books, 
but also of the meaning of passages and the connotation 
of words. That the Jews should have been foremost in 
Biblical research, is not surprising, when we consider, 
that they were the authors oi the Bible, that their faith 
was founded upon it, and that they looked upon it as 
the advocate of humanity's highest ideals of civilization, 
not to forgot, that until a very late day, the claim of the 
divine origin of Scriptures was rather general among 
Jews. " The study of the law superseded every ottier 
duty " in their estimation. They, virtually, if not lit- 
erally, carried out the commands " to teach it diligently 
to their children, when sitting in the house, when walk 
ing by the way, when lying down and when rising up" ; 
and " to meditate therein day and night." Not only 
that " ignorance of the law rendered piety impossible," 
but the neglect of the law for some other work endan- 
gered Israel's life. The following Talmudical, account 
brings out this point. Hadrian, the Eoman Emperor, 
had forbidden Jews to engage in the study of the laW; 
which included the whole Bible and all the disciplines 
related to it. Despite the imperial edict, Eabbi Akibah 
taught the law publicly. A certain man, named Papus, 
called him to account for his disobedience, whereupon 
Akibah told the following fable. A fox promenaded 
along a river's bank, and, noticing that the fishes were 
swimming nervously to and fro, inquired of what they 
were afraid. They answered : " We fear the fishermen's 
nets." " Come upon the dry land and we will live to- 

Commentators of Talmudic Period 15 

gether, like the first animals on earth," remarked the sly 
fox. The fishes replied: "You are unjustly regarded 
the smartest member of the animal kingdom. Do you 
not know that, though we may not be safe in the water, 
death must needs come to us if we venture upon the dry 
land?" The application of the fable made by Akibah 
was to this efl'ect. Let Israel get away from its law and 
its dissolution is inevitable. 

Another point worthy of mention in this connection, 
because demonstrating the extent to which the Jews 
busied themselves witli Scripture^s and its interpretation, 
is their almost unvarying tendency to regard every sub- 
ject of study they pursued in their dispersion, from the 
Biblical point of view. The well-known attempt of Mai- 
monidcs, a Jewish teacher, living in the twelfth century, 
to defend Judaism against tlie then dominant Aristotel- 
ianism, is by no means the only instance proving the 
effort of Jews at harmonizing philosophy and other sys- 
tems of thought with Biblical teaching. 

In searching for the first Jewish Biblical exegete, we 
are led back to a time preceding by several centuries thi^ 
close of the Biblical canon. Ezra called niin3 thd "isid 
niyn " an expert scril^e in the law of Moses " may be 
regarded, as far as historical documentary evidence can 
be trusted, the father of Biblical Exegesis. The He- 
brew equivalent for " exegesis " is wmt2 from a root ty*iT 
meaning " to seek," " search," and, hence, to " ex- 
pound"; a verb occurring in Ezra 7: 10, which reads: 
" And Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of 
the Lord." 

That Ezra should have been the first to devote him- 
self to the development of Biblical interpretation and 

16 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

should have been responsible for the cultivation of this 
discipline, at the hands of others, is easily explained, 
on the basis of the culture existing among the people of 
his time living in Palestine. In the middle of the fifth 
century before the Christian era, the colonists who had 
returned from the exile to the land of their fathers 
could not be considered a well established theocracy. 
Apart from the adverse political conditions, the igno- 
rance of the people in the Mosaic law, which required 
explanation before it could be understood, not to men- 
tion their lack of acquaintance with the classical He- 
brew, operated against the immediate and complete 
formation of an enduring Jewish commonwealth. The 
commonwealth of Israel had to be founded on the law 
of Moses, and the establishment of the law presupposed 
its execution. In the course of time the prophetical 
books and the sacred writings were added. These, as 
well as the Pentateuch, were ordered to be read at stated 
times, but were in a language, which the common people 
did not understand. The office of " Methurgeman," in- 
terpreter, was, therefore, created. This official gave the 
meaning of passages of Scriptures, as soon as read, para- 
phrasing often, instead of translating into the dialect 
in vogue among the people. 

The interpretations of the existing Scriptures un- 
doubtedly called forth discussions as to their justifica- 
tion. Men, learned in the law, and teachers by profes- 
sion soon gathered about themselves disciples, .in order 
to disseminate their understanding of the scriptural text, 
and thus the schools, which flourished in Palestine and 
later also in Babylonia, arose. Those schools, which in- 
creased in numbers and in usefulness from year to year. 

Commentators of Talmudic Period 17 

may be said to have given Biblical interpretation its 
strongest impetus, by virtue of the subjects, to which 
tlieir courses of instruction were confined. They taught 
two things: ^'The " ^liqra,'' the Scriptures (including 
IVntatcuch, Prophets, and Tiagiographa) by means of 
wliich, the intelligent reading of the text, and its di- 
vision into sentences and words were in great measure 
fixed. The Miqra was also known as " the written law " 
and formed the subject of elementary instruction in the 

The other subject taught was "the oral law," called 
so in contraflistinction to the written law. It included 
all interpretations or explanations of the intent and pur- 
pose of Biblical laws and passages, as well as all the new 
civil, criminal and religious enactments, for which the 
ever-changing political and cultural status called. While 
these interpretations were originally transmitted by word 
of mouth from father to son and from teacher to pupil, 
they were written down eventually, on acount of the in- 
ability of the human memory to retain intact all these 
ever-increasing traditions and on account of the desire 
to prevent the traditions from becoming lost. vSeveral 
efforts were made before Eabbi Jehudah of the third 
century, to systematize all the existing traditional ma- 
terial, but it remained for him to give to the world that 
work known by the name " ^lishnah " literally meaning 
" teaching." And as at the time of the third century 
the material became too ponderous to be carried by the 
memory, a condition necessitating the formation of the 
^rishnah, so at the close of the fifth century two men, 
Pabbina and Eab Ashi, put to writing, in a work known 
as the Talmud, traditions based on and interpreting the 

18 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

text of the ^lishnah, in which a great mass of material is 
foimd that is of Biblical exegetical interest. 

The exegesis of the schools of Palestine and Babylonia, 
preserved in the Mishnah and Talmud, is threefold in 
character. We have the Midrashoth, Halakhoth, and 

First in point of time are the Midrashoth. They are 
the interpretations of the Scriptural, more especially the 
Pentateuchal passages containing legal enactments. 

From this class eventually evolved the two remaining 
kinds of interpretations, which alternate with one an- 
other or at times are even fused into one aaother in the 
Mishnah, the Talmud and the other literary monuments 
of the Talmudic period of Jewish History. 

The Halakhoth (from "halakh" to go, to be in 
vogue) are statutes exegetically derived from and con- 
nected with Scriptures. 

The Haggadoth (from "nagad" to tell, to narrate), 
are interpretations derived from the Scriptures, but not 
directly connected with the same. 

While these three classes cover all the interpretations 
of the Talmudic period, the interpretations recorded are 
also known either by the name " Peshat " the plain in- 
terpretation (from " pashat " to unfold) or by the name 
" Derash/' the implied or figurative meaning (from 
"darash" to search, to expound). That in the "pe- 
shat " more of reason was displayed, while in the " de- 
rash " the imagination was given loose rein, is evident 
from the terms themselves. 

In this connection it should also be borne in mind that 
the Biblical interpretations of the Mislmah and Talmud 
are not found collated in any one part of either work. 

Commentators of Talmudic Period 19 

They are scattered all through these works, and are re- 
corded only as the necessities of tlic subject under con- 
sideration required them or called for them. 

In tlie Mishnah and Talmud and also in kindred \vorks 
of Mishnali and Talmud, various principles of interpre- 
tation were employed. 

The first person to formulate definite rules for guid- 
ance in this discipline, was Hillel, who flourished dur- 
ing the close of the first century before the common era. 
These rules were seven in number and are as follows : 

a. The inference from a minor to a major case, or 
vice versa. 

b. The inference based on analogy of expressions in 
the Scriptures. 

c. The generalization from one special provision in 
the Scriptures. 

d. The generalization based on two special provi- 
sions in the Scriptures. 

e. The inference based on the use of general and par- 
ticular terms used in a Scriptural passage. 

f. The inference based on the analogy established 
between two Scriptural passages. 

g. The inference based on the context. 

These seven rules of Hillel were expanded to thirteen 
by a certain Rabbi Ishmael living in the second century, 
and to thirty-two by Rabbi Eliezer, his disciple. 

A method of Biblical interpretation, differing widely 
from that based on the foregoing rules and their expan- 
sions, is that introduced by N'ahum of Oamzu, toward 
the close of the first and the beginning of the second cen- 
tury. It consisted of the use of certain particles and 
conjunctions for the purpose of arriving at implied 

20 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

meanings in Scriptural passages. The method is known 
by the name of " extension and limitation." Examples of 
particles of extension are " af " and " gam," meaning 
"also," and examples of particles of limitation are 
" akh " and " raq " meaning " but." We shall cite but 
one passage where this method is employed. The law 
with regard to the Sabbath is most rigorous in the Pen- 
tateuch. In Ex. 31 : 13, however, we read ''hut my 
Sabbaths you shall keep." Taking the word " akh " 
translated " but " to mean " merely/' the passage is in- 
terpreted to signify that the rigorous law of the Sabbath 
is not to be observed, if such observance endangers life. 
This method of interpretation found its fullest develop- 
ment in the celebrated Kabbi Akibah, who in 135 C. E., 
died the martyr's death in the massacre of Jews under 
the Eoman Emperor Hadrian. 

Another method of interpretation is that known as 
" Juxtaposition," which signifies that the meaning of 
a law is sometimes explained by another law or passage 
either preceding or following it. In the treatise Yeba- 
moth 49 a. treating of the Levirate marriage, it is said 
with reference to Deut. 23 : 3, reading " a bastard shall 
not enter the congregation of the Lord," that the word 
" bastard " signifies one born of incest or adultery, since 
the law in the first verse of the same chapter forbids an 
incestuous connection. 

Another method of interpretation is found in the 
change of the reading of the text, which the commen- 
tat/)rs introduced by virtue of the fact that tlie text de- 
prived of the vowel points might form an altogether dif- 
ferent word, than that which tradition has authorized. 
In many of the instances coming under this head we 

Commentators of Talmudic Period 21 

have the formula kSk .... N'^pn Sn " Do not read 
thus , but thus " 

Allusion was made above to works which must be 
placed into the Talmudic period of Jewish history. 
These, too, should be considered in an attempt to give 
an explanation of the peculiar kind of interpretation 
carried on among Jews during almost ten centuries of 
Biblical activity. Some of these works have been lost. 
Others have been luckily preserved. Eunning parallel 
with the ^lishnah we have first and foremost the 
" Tosefta '' the '' Supplement," a work intended to com- 
plete the deficiencies and omissions of the Mishnah. It 
contains the fragments of interpretations, for which 
some of the teachers living before and after the author of 
the ^[ishnah are responsible. The Tosefta is usually 
printed as an appendix to the Talmudic compendium of 
Alfazi (1013-1103). 

The "Beraitha'' was a work, which is known only 
from quotations made from it in other books. It con- 
sisted of laws and institutions which were not admitted 
into the Mishnah by the author of the Mishnah. Hence, 
the name " Beraitha " which signifies " that which is 

During the time of the Tanaim, a title applied to the 
teachers whose opinions are recorded in the Mishnah, 
the following books came into existence; Mekhilta, Sifra 
and Sifre, all Midrashic in character and treating of 
the last four books of the Pentateuch. 

The ]\Ieklii1tah, the Aramaic equivalent for the He- 
brew " Middah " measure, signifying in the Rabbinical 
dialect method of interpretation, and then collection of 
interpretations, is supposed to have originated in the 

22 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

school of Rabbi Ishmael, about the second century of 
the common era. Its interpretations treat of Exodus and 
begin with the twelfth chapter, enjoining the observance 
of the Passover. It is both Halakhik and Ha-ggadic in 
character, and is often quoted by the Talmud and the 
post-Talmudic literature. An example will suffice to 
illustrate its style. Ex. 12 : 3, reads m;r Sd Sx nm 
ii<^\i;' " Speak ye unto the whole congregation of the 
children of Israel." With tliis passage, as a basis, the 
discussion carried on, is : Kabbi Ishmael says, " and 
did both Moses and Aaron speak to Israel? Was it not 
also stated ^ and thou shalt speak to the children of Is- 
rael, saying ' ? Why then does the text say ' speak ye ' ? " 
The answer given to these queries is : When Moses spoke, 
Aaron listened with fear, and Scriptures regard his list- 
ening to Moses equivalent to his having heard the teach- 
ing from God Himself. Rabbi Achai b. Rabbi Jeshaiah 
is then reported to have said : ' When Closes spoke, Aaron 
was at his right and Eleazar at his left. The word, 
therefore, came from between them, and it seemed as 
though the three spoke.' " 

The Sifra, known also by the name " Torath Koha- 
nim," law of the priests and quoted extensively in the 
Talmud, is the product of the school of Akibah, with ad- 
ditions from the school of Ishmael, and treats the book 
of Leviticus. It turns almost every word into a source 
for Halakha and contains comparatively little Haggadic 
matter. To illustrate it: Lev. 19:18 reads oipn «S 
" thou shalt not bear vengeance." With reference to 
this passage the following statements are made. " What 
does vengeance signify? If one person says to another 
' lend me your sickle,' and the owner does not lend it ; 

Commentators of TALiNruDic Period 23 

and if on the noxt day tlic owner of the sickle says to 
the other * lend me your ax ' and the owner of the ax 
answers * I will not loan my ax because you did not lend 
me your sickle.' " 

The Sifre is a commentary on Numbers and Deute- 
ronomy. The part on Numbers is not by tlie same author 
as the part on Deuteronomy, that on Numbers being 
more argumentative than tlie other, and, therefore, re- 
sembling the Sifra in many respects. 

In this connection, it is well to refer to another book 
of these times which may also be regarded a running 
commentary to the Biblical books. I have in mind the 
" Seder 01am,'' literally " the order of the world," and 
constituting a chronology of Biblical history. 

As there are works kindred to the Mishnah, there are 
works kindred to the Talmud, having come into existence 
either at the same time with the Talmud or after the 
Talmud, but sliowinrj; a decided Talmudical flavor. The 
works referred to are the Midrashim, of which there is 
a large number. These are, for the most part, Haggadic 
and are more homiletical in character and only now and 
then exegetical by way of implication. The best-known 
jMidrash is the ^lidrash Rabba, the great Midrash^ It is 
called so because it opens with the explanation of a 
teacher entitled Rabbi Hoshaiah Rabba. The difference 
between the Midrash Rabba and other Midrashim is this, 
that in the Midrash Rabba every interpretation is based 
on a scriptural verse from some other book. The part 
treating of Genesis is no doubt a product of the fourtli 
century. The following will illustrate the method of 
Midrashic interpretation. Gen. 2 : 20 reads; Kip' nwiS 
nxi nnpS lyxrD o ni^K "she shall be called woman. 

24 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

because she was taken out of man." On this passage 
we find the comment, that from this is to be inferred 
that the law was given in the holy tongue and that the 
world was created in tlie holy language. Did you 
ever hear that man is called 'JU (j^vo^) which would 
be allied to woman K"rj (r^'-'v) or that from 'annjx 
(avOpwTzo^) «'3nnjt< (^(hOiiio-ia') is formed; or that 
from Ki:3J tlie word Nn"t3J is formed for woman? 
And yet from t^'X the word ni^K is formed. 

After the formation of the Midrash Eabl)a to Genesis, 
the Midrashic literature grew in volume. There came 
into existence the Pesiqta de Eab Kahanah, a Midrash 
on the special Scriptural lessons to be read in the syna- 
gogue on Sabbaths and feast days; the Midrash Eabba 
to Leviticus, and afterwards added to the entire work 
which goes by the name of Midrash Eabba; the Midrash 
Tanchuma, on the whole Pentateuch, called so because 
the major part is from the pen of a certain Eabbi Tan- 
chuma, and also by the name of " Yelamdenu " he will 
teach us, or let him teach us, because the opening phrase 
is such, and believed by Zunz to be a product of the ninth 
century; the Pesiqta Eal)bati, called so to distinguish it 
from the Pesiqta de Eab Kahanah ; the Midrash Eal)ba to 
Deuteronomy, which Zunz also places into the ninth cen- 
tury; the Midrash Eabba to Numbers; the Midrash 
Eabba to Exodus; the Midrash to the five Biblical 
scrolls: Song of songs, Euth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes 
and Esther; the Pirqe de Eabbi Eliezer, which contains 
fifty-four chapters, describes the most important events 
of the Pentateuch, and whose author lived about the 
eighth century ; the Yalqut Shimoni on the twenty-four 
books of the 0. T. whose author is unknown ; the Yalqut 

Commentators of Talmudic Period 25 

Ha Makiri on the twelve minor proplicts, also of uncer- 
tain authorship; and finally the Midrash Ilaggadol, an- 
other great Midrash, product of the Middle Ages, simi- 
lar in contents but not identical with the Midrash Rabba. 
Taking into consideration the details of the exegesis in 
vogue in the da3's of the formation of the Mishnic and 
Talmudic literature, one cannot help but infer that it 
must contain a great deal of valueless material ; value- 
less from the truh' exegetical point of view, however im- 
portant it may be homiletically and ethically. Never- 
theless, it must not be forgotten, in passing judgment on 
the details of this literature, that Biblical research was 
conducted in the main for purposes of edification, that 
every verse was thought to be capable of many interpre- 
tations, and tliat only incidentally the text was ex- 
pounded in the truly exegetical way, which aims to de- 
termine the correct reading, the historical allusion and 
the exact authorship. And again, though the " derash " 
the derived or forced explanation was popular and the 
" peshat " or natural meaning of a passage was not, as 
a rule, aimed at, we cannot close our eyes to the truth 
that some of the men, who produced the ]\Iidrashim were 
among the main workers in the field of the Masora, 
which established by means of the vowel points and 
punctuation, the correct reading of the Hebrew text of 
the Scriptures. Nor must we lose sight of the problems 
of authorship and of the valuable emendations which the 
Talmud discussed, allusions to which may be met in 
every modern Biblical commentary. Thus, for exam- 
ple, we find in the ]\Iishnah, Talmud, and ^lidrashim 
caution against the careless pronunciation and writing 
of similar letters of the Hebrew alphabet (in order to 

26 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

avoid misunderstanding), indications of the special 
meanings of the various verbal forms in Hebrew, the 
mention of the fact that there is no chronological order 
in the Pentateuch and other scriptural books, the trans- 
positon of phrases, changes m the order of the words 
of the text, changes in reading, the separation of the 
various sections, explanations on the basis of etymology, 
the numerical value of the component letters of a word, 
the various shades of meaning which such a word as 
" ki " usually translated " for " has in the Hebrew, and 
many other points, helping the modern critic materially 
in making his discoveries. 

A factor, running parallel to the Mishnah and Tal- 
mud, and yielding considerable material of exegetical 
value, from the Jewish point of view, is the variety of 
translations of the old Testament text and the discus- 
sions of Biblical and Jewish questions which came into 
existence from time to time during this period. 

It makes no difference whether the translations in 
question are from the pens of Jews or non-Jews. In 
every single instance, where the non-Jew is responsible 
for the translation, the knowledge shown in the making 
of the translation was acquired from Jewish savants. 

First and foremost let us consider the Targimis, the 
Aramaic translations. 

A very old, in fact the oldest translation of the Old 
Testament in Aramaic is the " Targum shel Kethub- 
him," the Targum of the Hagiographa. Thirty years 
before the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem, 
Rabbi Gamliel I knew of its existence, for he refers to 
the confiscation of the part dealing with the book of 
Job. This translation may have been embodied in an- 
other translation known as the Jerusalem Targum. 

Commentators of Talmudic Pi^riod 27 

The Jerusalem Targnm is a paraphrase to the tliroo 
sections of the Old Testament. Of this only fragments are 
preserved. It was, in all probability, used as a basis for 
the works of Onqelos and Jonathan to be treated later. 
The language of the Jerusalem Targum is the Western 
Aramaic, and consists of a mixture of Hebrew, Syriac 
and Greek elements. It is influenced greatly by Greek 
thouglit and sliows marked care in tlie explanation of 
anthropomorphistic expressions. 

E. g. Gen. 11:23, "And God created man" is ren- 
dered by the Jerusalem Targiim, " And the word of the 
Lord created man.'^ 

Another Aramaic translation is the Targum Jonathan, 
called so because ascribed to a certain Jonathan b. Uziel, 
on the authority of the Talmud (Megillah 3a) where it 
is declared that Jonathan, son of Uziel, a disciple of 
Ilillel, produced the Aramaic translation of the Proph- 
ets. It is also termed \ti DUin " our translation " as 
used by Palestinean Jewsto distinguish it from the Baby- 
lonian Aramaic translation of Onqelos. Based on the 
Jerusalem Targum, its language is also the Western Ara- 
maic. Its principal peculiarity is, that it is explanatory of 
the original text. The Targum Jonathan of the various 
parts of the Old Testament is not all by one author. That 
of the Pentateuch, however, is by one man. To illustrate 
its peculiarity just referred to, let us take the following 
passages : 

a. Gen. 3: 6, "ye shall become like God" is ren- 
dered " like great angels." 

b. Gen. 30 : 2, " Am I in God's stead " is rendered 
" Instead of your asking it of me, ask it of God." 

c. Lev. 10: 4, "Thou shalt not curse the deaf" is 
rendered " Do not curse him who does not hear." 

28 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

(1. Doiit. 2G: 0, "a land flowing with milk and 
honey." The Targiim Jonathan renders this: "a land 
whose fruit is fat like milk and sweet as honey/' 

Tlie Tar<i;iiiu Jonathan, to the prophets consists of 
two recensions, one of very early date, and one more 
recent. The latter is given in the text known as Miq- 
raoth Gedoloth. 

An,d still another Aramaic translation is the Targiim 
Onqelos. It is WTitten in the Eastern Aramaic dialect, 
and is reported by the Talmnd (^Megillah 3a) to be the 
work of the Proselyte Onqelos. It covers only the Pen- 
tateuch. Its character is illustrated by the following 
passages : 

Gen. 2 : 24 reads, " Therefore shall a man leave his 
father and his mother," which Onqelos rendered : 
" Everyone should leave the sleeping chamber of his 

1). Gen. 4:7," If thou doest well, shalt thou not be 
accepted?" which Onqelos rendered, "If 3'ou improve 
your conduct, you will be forgiven." 

c. Ex. 1 : 22, " Every son that is born," "Onqelos 
emended with the word 'Nnn'S so that the passage reads 
" Every son that is born to the Jews." 

d. In Ex. 3. 1 we have a complete change of diction. 
The phrase " the mountain of God," Onqelos rendered 
" the mountain, on which the glory of God revealed it- 

e. In Ex. 35 : 31 the phrase, " the spirit of God " is 
rendered " the spirit of prophecy from God." 

f. Num. 23 : 19 reads " God is not a man that He 
should lie," which is rendered by Onqelos, " not like the 
words of men is the decree of God." 

Commentators of Talmudic Period 29 

g. Dcut. 20 : 19, " for thr^ tree of the fiel^ i? man's 
life" is ivndi'ird by OiKjclos, " beliold not like man is 
tree of the fiekl.'^ 

In addition to tlie Aramaic translations we have the 
Greek translations: 

a. The Septiiagint. It certainly reflects the Jewish 

b. The Greek translation of Aqila. It is a liberal 
Greek renderin«i^ of the Old Testament text, is in- 
ferior to the LXX in diction, but is superior to it in ac- 
curacy, and reflects the scholarship of Jaljneh. It is from 
the pen of the same Onqelos to whom the Targum On- 
qelos is ascribed. The other existing Greek versions, the 
Peshitta in Svriac and St. Jerome's Latin versions were 
all influenced l)y Jewish teachers and may be regarded as 
the avenues, through which much of the Jewish Biblical 
exegesis came down to us. 

Two other sources of Biblical exegesis exist which 
have not been touched upon by us thus far. They are 
not translations, but works discussing subjects of a Bib- 
lical character. I refer to the works of Philo and Jose- 
phus. Philo may be called the representative of the 
Alexandrian Jewish Exegetes who, in his writings, para- 
phrases, Pentateuchal storicj and institutions, gives a 
running commentary of the Biblical text, and attempts 
to prove that Greek philosophy may be employed to ex- 
plain Biblical terms. 

Josephus, who lived at the time of the siege of Jeru- 
salem and witnessed the downfall of the Jewish state and 
nation, treats in the first part of his " Antiquities " 
many of the narrative portions of Scriptures, and hence 
may be Justly regarded an interpreter of the Bible, in 
addition to being considered an historian. 

30 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

The literature thus far mentioned comprises the first 
attempts made by Jews to explain the meaning of the 
Old Testament, as a whole, of its component books and 
separate passages. 

Leaving the Talmudical period, in which, for the most 
part, the Midrashic method obtained, we encounter view- 
points which differ radically from those held by the Tal- 
mndic teachers and their contemporaries, although the 
more recent view points may have been, and in all likeli- 
hood were, built upon or evolved out of the Midrashic 
method. The causes which led to the change and the 
men who championed the more recent method of inter- 
pretation will constitute the subject of the next chapter. 


The Karaites and Saadia 

The year 500 of the Common Era marks the begin- 
ning of a new epoch, not only in the history of the Jew- 
ish people, but also in their literature. The view point 
of Jews, with regard to all subjects, had undergone a 
marvelous change, on account of changed cultural con- 
ditions. The Biblical exegesis which constituted their 
main pursuit, could by no means remain unaffected. 
That of the Talmudical period, treated in the previous 
chapter, had been the product of the schools of Palestine 
and Babylonia. In its creation, the Babylonian teachers 
certainly played the more prominent part, inasmuch as 
the Jewish centre of gravity had shifted from Palestine 
to Babylonia at an early date, after the destruction of 
the Temple in Jerusalem. It is true, Palestine could 
boast of prominent academies, established for the in- 
terpretation of Scriptures, but they could not compare, 
either in number or efficiency, with those which re- 
dounded to the glory of Babylonian Jewry. 

In Babylonia, the Jews enjoyed, to a certain extent, 
political independence. While they were under the con- 
trol of the Babylonian Government, they had, at their 
head, an " Exilarch ^' known by the Aramaic title, " Resli 
Geluthah." This dignitary, descendant as he was of the 
Davidic family, enjoyed the respect and acknowledgment 
of the State authorities. It is difficult to say, at what 
time this office was first created. Documentary evidence, 

34: Jewish Biblical Commentators 


to some extent, warrants us in holding the opinion, that 
tlic office dates back to the time, when Babylon was a 
part of the Parthian Empire; that it continued during 
the rule of the Sassinades, and survived for several cen- 
turies during Arabic sway. One of the functions of the 
Exilarch was the appointment of judges. He had juris- 
diction in criminal cases. He enjoyed special honor also 
in the Synagogue. A proof of the last mentioned fact 
is the circumstance, that the scroll of the law was car- 
ried to him during divine service, while all others had 
to approach the scroll, when the benediction over the 
scroll was to be recited by them. Enjoying the privilege 
of maintaining a Court, the Exilarch was permitted to 
levy taxes on the various provinces of Babylonia, in 
which the Jews resided. 

Granted such political and religious autonomy, it was 
but natural for Jews to prefer to live in Babylonia, to 
living in Palestine, howsoever dear Palestine was to 
them, as the source of the holiest memories in their his- 
tory. It was, therefore, that many Jews, who had been 
bom and reared in Palestine, migrated, often' at an ad- 
vanced age, to Babylonia. As the Jewish population of 
Babylonia increased, the schools in Babylonia became 
more numerous than the Palestinean academies. They 
also acquired greater prominence, and, eventually, 
greater authority, in view of their superiority, depend- 
ent for the most part on the celebrity of their scholars. 
Two of these schools, more particularly, grew in influ- 
ence. Those schools were the academies of Sora and 
Pumbeditlia. At the head of these schools were men who 
were known by the title, " Gaonim," literally, " the 
noble ones " ; also termed the " Koshe Yeshibha," " heads 

The Karaites and Saadia 35 

of the academy," a title which came into existence about 
the close of the sixth century. 

The Gaoniiii constituted, in regular order of succes- 
sion, the fourth class of savants whose lives were de- 
voted to the study, teaching, and interpretation, not only 
of the law of Closes, but of the entire Bible. The four 
classes here referred to, are the following: 

The first are the Tanaini — the teachers of the Mish- 

Tlie second arc the Amoraim, the teachers of the 
Talmud, who interpreted the Mishnah. 

The third are the Saboraim who edited the Talmud. 

The fourth are the Gaonim, who in turn interpreted 
the Talmud, and based their religio-legal decisions on 
the Talmudic teachings. 

Before men could rise to the prominent position of 
Gaon, they had to be elected by the academy. Their 
learning, howsoever great, was, by no means, the sesame, 
that opened for them the door to this scholastic promi- 
nence. Occasionally, however, they were appointed by 
the Exilarch, who communally stood above the Gaonim, 
and, whenever so appointed, they nevertheless remained 
altogether independent of him. 

While both Sora and Pumbeditha had their Gaonim, 
the Gaon of Sora, in every single instance, occupied a 
higher position than the Gaon of Pumbeditha; in fact, if 
the Exilarch died, during the administration of a Gaon 
at Sora, the latter enjoyed the official income of the Exi- 
larch, until another Exilarch was appointed. The Gaon 
of Sora undoubtedly owed his superior rank over his col- 
league in Pumbeditha, to the superiority of the school of 
Sora, and it was only when the school of Sora closed 

36 Jewish Biblical Commi:ntatoks 

its doors for all time to come, in the middla of the 
eleventh century, that the office of Gaon went out of 

In the field of Biblical exegesis, the Gaonim did not 
strike out along altogether new lines, until the middle 
of the seventh century. They rather continued with 
very slight variations, that Midrashic interpretation of 
Scriptures, marking the works of the Talmudic period. 
That eventually the Midrashic method of interpretation 
should have been abandoned, is not surprising. Valua- 
ble as the " derash " seemed to be, some of the interpre- 
tations of this character were carried to extremes, in the 
attempt to make every Biblical passage serve homiletical 
purposes. The interpretation of the law was at times, 
so far fetched and so fanciful, that it was sure to meet 
with opposition. The Bible itself, on account of the 
Midrashic method, was made secondary to its interpre- 
tation. Some of the teachers began to realize that the 
Talmud was^ on this account, supplanting the Bible, 
in the estimation of the people. The undue reverence 
for the Talmud, at the expense of the Scriptures, had to 
be overcome. A movement was, therefore, set on foot 
to reinstate the Bible into its proper place. This move- 
ment was inaugurated by no obscure individual, who 
hailed from some out-of-the-way place, but by one who 
belonged to the distinguished family of the Exilarch. 

In order to imderstand thoroughly the influence which 
the originator of the movement just referred to, exer- 
cised, it may be well to consider him in the light of his 
social rank. The Exilarch Solomon had died without 
issue, in 701, and the office was to have been conferred 
on his nephew, Anan ben David. Anan ben David waa 


deemed 1111 Ht for the position. There was personal ob- 
jection to 111 in. IFe was prosuinptuons and overbearing, 
while his brother, on the otlier hand, was nnassuming 
and modest. ITe also manifested a decided lukewarm- 
ness towards traditional Judaism ; a lukewarmness 
amounting almost to disdain. What made him indif- 
ferent towards the traditions of his ])oopl(' was his lonir 
sojourn in the Persian Mesopotamian borderlands, 
where he was not only not under the influence of the 
prevailing Jewish thought, bnt also where he did not re- 
main altogether nnaffected by the propaganda of the 

At his time, the weak remnants of Sadduceism and 
Essenism, which dated tlieir origin })ack as far as the sec- 
ond century before the Christian Era, made themselves 
felt once more, amid the counter currents which were 
sweeping across Jewish thought. 

Keenly disappointed because not elected Exilarch, 
Anan ben David allowed himself to be proclaimed Anti- 
Exilarch. Jewish politics, despite the comparative Jew- 
ish independence, was not altogether unwatched by the 
State authorities. Whenever differences arose within 
the Jewish fold, the State authorities took a leading 
part in the settlement. The Mohammedan Caliphs, hav- 
ing learned of Anan's determination to rule as Exilarch, 
had him arrested, threw him into prison, and would have 
had him executed, had he not followed the advice of a fel- 
low prisoner, founder of the great ]\[ohammedan Casuists, 
the Hanafites, who counselled him to interpret all am- 
biguous and doubtful precepts of the law in a manner 
directly opposed to the traditional int-erpretation, and 
thus found a new religious sect. The Jews were looked 

38 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

upon as " unbelievers " by tbe Mohammedans, and it 
was felt, that if Anan were supposed to differ from the 
Jews, as known to the Caliphate, the Caliphate would 
look with favor upon the new sect, and its founder. 
Anan accepted the advice. He was set free, and won 
not only the connivance, but also the support of the Mo- 
hammedan authorities. Xo sooner set free, than he 
devoted himself to the promotion of his new cause. He 
went to Palestine and built a synagogue at Jerusalem, 
in which the ritual in vogue was different from that 
known in the S3'nagogues recognized by Eabbinical au- 
thority. Realizing that he was looked upon in the light 
of a dissenter, Anan's hostility toward the Gaonate and 
his animosity against the Talmud continued to grow 
more intense. The remark is ascribed to him : " I wish 
that all the adherents of the Talmud were in my body, 
so that by killing myself I would at the same time kill 
them." He did not hesitate to accuse the Talmudists, 
including, of course, the Midrashic interpreters of Scrip- 
tures, of having corrupted Judaism, of having added to 
the Torah many things not warranted by the text, and 
of having disregarded some of the more important in- 
stitutions, which should be considered bone and sinew of 
Israel as a people and of its religious life. The motto, 
which guided Anan was, " Seek the Scriptures indus- 
triously." His battle cry seemed to be, " Back to the 
Bible." In contradistinction to the Talmudists, called 
" Rabbinites," because adhering to that Rabbinical tra- 
dition, supposed to explain the law and its intent, the 
followers of Anan ben David are known in history as 
the Karaites (Keraim, Baale Mikra, Bene Mikra), fol- 
lowers of the Bible, and the movement represented by 

TiiK Karaites and Saadta 39 

tlicni was icrmcd Karaism. Anan is reported to have ex- 
])oiinded his views concerning religious commandments 
and prohihitions, in three works, one of wliich was a 
commentary to the Pentateuch. Tliese works have un- 
fortunately been lost. The later development of the 
Karaitic movement, however, showed that Anan took so 
l)old a stand against Talmudic exposition that lie went 
to unwarranted extremes in his method, which consisted 
of the literal exposition of Scriptures. Opposed as he 
was to Rabbinical tradition, he did not steer clear en- 
tirely of the method of the Eabbinites. He fell into the 
very net, from the meshes of which he endeavored to 
extricate himself. Thus, for example, he made use of 
the Mishnic rules of interpretation, in deducing the new 
laws of his religion. Among the many things that he 
effected, are the following: He abolished the fixed calen- 
dar, which had been in vogue for five chturies. Being a 
literalist, he in some instances, outdid the Rabbinites m 
rigorousness. This is evident in the observances of the 
Sabbath, the laws regarding food forbidden to be eaten, 
and the institution of marjage. Things that he forbade 
were the laying of the Phylacteries, the use of the festal 
plants on the Feast of Tabernacles, and the celebration 
of the Feast of Dedication. He changed also the cycle 
of Scriptural reading for the Sabbaths. 

Justification as there may have been, to some extent, 
in the Karaitic movement, it must not be forgotten that 
the literalism of interpretation made for a point which 
was equalled in danger only by the extreme to which 
Rabbinism had gone before the advent of Anan. Nor 
must it'be forgotten that the natural changes, which are 
brought about in the culture of a people, during cen- 

40 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

turies of existence, and which form the force known as 
tradition, are the determining elements in the develop- 
ment of the cause the people may represent. And yet, 
extravagant as Karaism may have been, and anxious as 
it was to bring about a revolution against an ingenuity 
run riot in the method of Talmudical interpretation, it 
must be conceded that Karaism gave to Biblical criti- 
cism, as it did to Judaism, a healthy stimulus for Bible 
study, along more careful and rational lines, even in 
circles beyond its own territory. Although Karaism 
divided the Jewish people into two factions, a cleavage 
which since the time of Anan has not been repaired, it 
proved a blessing in disguise. Nor was Karaism simply 
a temporary phenomenon. Because of the novelty of its 
thought, and its revolutionary tendency against Tal- 
mudism, Karaism made many converts during the first 
centuries of its existence, in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, 
Babylonia, and Persia. In course of time, it extended 
even to the Byzantine Empire, and about the thirteenth 
century it made its way into Russia, where almost all the 
living exponents of the movement are confined. 

In the century and a half following Anan, Karaism 
produced no prominent work in the field of Biblical 
exegesis. Among those who devoted themselves to the 
work are the following: Benjamin Nahawendi, who ap- 
plied the allegorical method of exposition, in a manner 
resembling that of Philo; Juclghan of Hamarlan, known 
as Judah the Persian, who expounded the theory that 
the law had both exoteric and esoteric significance ; Hivi 
of Balkh, who attempted to criticize the subject matter 
of the Bible, on rational grounds, and claimed to have 
discovered two hundred reasons, both historical and 
legal, against the authenticity of the Pentateuch. 

The Karaites and Saadia 41 

Tlio l)iilk of oxegetical literature produeed by Ka- 
raites, came into existence several centuries later, and 
was inspired by the example of Rabbinism, which was 
all this time producing important exegetical literature. 
It is not necessary, in this connection, to give the names 
of the Karaitic Biblical exegetes, living several centuries 
after Anan. Suffice it to say, that their literary works 
are comment-aries on the Pentateuch and otlier Biblical 
books, and treatises on the grammar of the Hebrew 
language. However, it is no more than just to state that 
the Karaites of the tenth and eleventh centuries, who 
contributed to Biblical exegeses, rendered, at times, valu- 
able service, since at this late day, the animosity of Ka- 
raism against Ral)binism had become considerably miti- 
gated, and the judgment of Karaites had become calmer. 

While Eabbinism had a greater number of followers 
than Karaism, it, by no means, looked with indifference 
upon the new movement. Eabbinism regarded it as it 
would every other revolutionary power, in the light of an 
enemy, which, in all probability, would, in course of 
time, become a formidable rival. Eabbinism, therefore, 
felt itself called upon to answer the charges made against 
it, and reconstruct, if this were necessary, the Midrashic 
element of interpretation, which had been so carefully 
developed during ten centuries of scholastic activity. 
Eabbinism was prepared to acknowledge its weaknesses. 
It was willing to remedy its faults. It preferred recon- 
struction to seeing traditions suffer the complete loss of 
respect and confidence among the people. 

Towards the close of the ninth century, the first cham- 
pion of the new interpretation of Eabbinism made his 
appearance. The man. to vrbom reference is made, is 

,42 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

Saadia ben Joseph, who was born in the City of Fayum, 
in upper Egypt, in 892, and died in 942 at tlie age of 

Very little is known about his youth and education. 
Xumerous conjectures exist as to the identity of his 
teachers. One man supposes him to have been the disciple 
of a certain Abu Kathir; another believes him to have 
sat at the feet of the Karaite, Salman ben Jerucham, 
against whom he, later in life, waged bitter war. The 
works he wrote, however, indicate that for the time in 
which he lived, his education was a many sided one. He 
was not only master of the Hebrew language and all the 
literature written in it, but also the master of the xA.raljic 
tongue. He devoted himself to philosophy and famil- 
iarized himself thoroughly with the sacred literature of 
Christianity and Islam. His reputation soon spread 
from his native country to the center of Jewish life. 
Probably he never dreamed in his youth, of being pro- 
moted to the dignity of Gaon. His superiority, how- 
ever, soon won for him this exalted position. In 928 he 
was elected to become the head of the school of Sora, 
because of the very qualities which his opponent claimed 
rendered him unfit for the position. It w^as held that, 
while Saadia surpassed all his contemporaries in wisdom, 
piety, and eloquence, his very independent spirit made 
him shrink from no undertaking. It was regarded an 
exceptional instance for an Eg}^ptian Jew, who had not 
been reared in the Talmudic atmosphere of the Baby- 
lonian schools, to be called to preside over the academy 
of Sora. Philosopher as Saadia was, he added to the al- 
ready very great glory of that Babylonian academy. Sora 
soon became known, through him, not only for its Tal- 

Tjik Kakaiti:.s and Saadia 43 

mudic, but also for its philosophical disciplines. As he 
added to the splendor of Sora, the school of Puiiiljeditha 
continued to suffer a gradual loss of its former greatness. 
Saadia's praiseworthy independence against the Exilarch 
David, who wanted him to act contrary to the dictates 
of his conscience, induced David to depose him, where- 
upon Saadia turned upon David, and deposed the latter. 
Two factions thus arose in Babylonia, among the Rab- 
l)inites, each of which applied to the Cali])hate for 
intercession. In response to bribes, David was endorsed 
by the Caliph. Saadia, nevertheless, asserted his au- 
thority as Gaon, and it was only upon the death of the 
Caliph, when money again began to pour from David's 
purse into the coffers of the new ruler, that Saadia was 
compelled to live in Bagdad in retirement for four years. 
Saadia was a prolific writer on every subject in which 
he had received training. He produced an Arabic trans- 
lation of the Pentateuch and the other Biblical books, 
with a commentary written also in Arabic. The only 
books extant are the Pentateuch, Isaiah, Psalms, Prov- 
erbs, and fragments of the Book of Job. In his trans- 
lation he figures as the exponent of the " Peshat," " the 
simple explanation," combining in the same, reason and 
tradition. This translation was, therefore, also explana- 
tory, without possessing the character of the paraphrase. 
In the introduction to this work, Saadia states that he 
underakes the task upon the request of many for a trans- 
lation of the Torah, with special reference to the linguis- 
tic sense, in order to make the Torah more intelligible 
to the people. His philosophical work, entitled " Sefer 
Ha-emunoth Vedeoth" on the philosophy of religion, and 
his commentarv on the book of Creation, " Sefer Yezi- 

44 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

rah" must bo mentioned also in tliis connection, as 
throwinf^ light on the many passages of Scriptures which 
required exegetical explanation. The linguistic treat- 
ises he left, also, are worthy of note here. That of spe- 
cial interest is the " Sefer Lashon Ivri," a book on the 
Hebrew language, in which he treats details of Hebrew 
grammar. Two other books of interest, from his pen, 
are the one on " Hapax-legomena," and the other on the 
" Elegance of the Hebrew Language," " Sefer Zechuth." 
Saadia figures as champion of that rational traditional- 
ism in interpretation, for which the conditions of the 
times called. Reason is with him the basis of Scriptural 
exegesis. He claims that the exposition of the Bible 
must contain nothing that is obscure, or nothing that 
contradicts logic. His interpretation is not limited by 
the reproduction of simple words and sentences, but takes 
into consideration the " Tendcnz " of the books as entire- 
ties, and the relation in which the component chapters 
of books, stand to one another. He believed in miracle-? 
and the divine origin of the Bible. He took into account 
the collateral authority of Scriptures themseh'es, as a 
source of exegesis, and did not fail to lay stress upon 
the authority of tradition. Saadia followed the exam- 
ples of the TargumSj in the explanation of anthropomor- 
phisms. The understanding of his translation was pro- 
moted by his invariable attempt not to permit the ob- 
scure to remain, and because he used Arabic words for 
expressions of the Bible, which, while they were not al- 
together warranted by the text, made the text clear. Tt 
is on this score that Ibn Ezra criticized him, as well as 
for his habit of giving terms connotations not warranted 
by their real meaning. 

The Karaites and Saadia 45 

The point to which special attention should be di- 
rected in the exegesis of Saadia, is his theory, that in 
the Bible we have frequent ellipses. Thus, for example, 
in his commentan^ where he speaks of the law of the half- 
shekel, commanded in Exodus 30:11-10, we find him 
saying that in Chronicles 5 : 6 and 9, between the words 
'" Masath " and " Mosheh," the word " Am " should be 
supplied, so that the text would read, " The numbering 
of the people of Moses." He claims that there are ten 
ellipses in the Bible, which must be supplied after the 
verb " N'asa " "to lift up." As pioneer of an exegesis 
independent of the iron-clad traditional Midrashic 
thought, Saadia soon won many followers, both among 
his contemporaries and his immediate successors. These 
are Samuel ben Chofni (who died 1034) and who fol- 
lows Saadia in his explanation of the Pentateuch, al- 
though adhering to the Hebrew text more strictly than 
Saadia ; Aaron Ibn Sargado, head of the school of Pum- 
beditha, who was the author of a commentary on the Pen- 
tateuch ; the Gaon Hai, Isaac Israeli ; Jehudah Karoisch, 
Chananel ben Chushiel, of whose Pentateuchal com- 
mentary many examples have been preserved ; Nissim 
ben Jacob, and Sabbath ai Donnolo. With the end of 
Saadia's life, the Babylonian schools drew to their close. 
One of the last of the more prominent Gaonim was She- 
rira, and the last was the Gaon Hezekiah, executed by 
order of the Caliph. The decline of the school of Sora 
was no doubt the result of the antagonism of the Moham- 
medans and the differences between the Jewish scholars 
of those days. When, in 103G, the last Gaon was cruelly 
removed from his office, the scholars of Babylonia were 
scattered, and Babylonia no longer continued as the seat 

46 jEwifciii JiiiiLicAL Commentators 

of Jewish learning. Jewish activity shifted to other 
quarters, and with the shifting of Jewish activity into 
another environment, the Biblical exegesis among Jews, 
took on a new shape and a new color. 




Grammarians and Lexicographers 

Tliat was a sorrowful day when the schools of 8ora 
and Puinhcditha were obliged to close their doors, never 
again to be reopened for the reception of students and 
the stud}^ of the law under the guidance of celebrated 
scholars. As, at one time, the people did not deem it 
possible for Israel to survive, without the ownership of 
Palestine and Israel's separate existence as a nation, so, 
in the days of the Babylonian academies, the conviction 
was general, that Biblical knowledge could thrive only 
under Babylonian skies. Little did men dream, that 
in the far off Spanish Peninsula, the work, so conscien- 
tiously begun and faithfully cultivated in the East, 
would be successfully continued, and that too, by men 
not possessing less enthusiasm for, and perseverance in 
the study of the Law, than their Palcstinean and Baby- 
lonian predecessors. 

Spain had been inliabited by Jews during' the early 
Christian centuries. The life of these early Jewish set- 
tlers was anything but an enviable one. They were ex- 
posed to constant proscriptions and persecutions. Not 
until the conquest of Spain by the Mohammedans in the 
beginning of the Eighth Century, when spurred on by 
African co-religionists to ally themselves with the Moors, 
did a period of comparative prosperity and ease dawn 
for the Jews, who had taken up their residence in Spain. 

That the superior advantages enjoyed by Spanish Jews 

50 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

should have attracted to Spain, Jews from other coun- 
tries, is a circumstance requiring but little special punc- 
tuation. From this time on, Spain became the New- 
Jerusalem, not simply because it offered a home to " the 
tribe of the wandering foot," but also because from it 
issued " the law and the word of God." 

The manner in which the learning of the East chanced 
to be transplanted to the West, is one of the most inter- 
esting incidents in the history of those days. When the 
school of Sora was rapidly declining and its end seemed 
near, its teachers desired to make one last effort to pre- 
vent its disintegration. In the year 948, four teachers 
were, therefore, delegated to cross the Mediterranean 
Sea and address themselves to several communities for 
subsidies to be voted the most prominent seat of Jewish 
learning then in existence. The four teachers in ques- 
tion embarked on the same vessel, which was captured 
by the Spanish- Arabic Admiral, Tbn Eumahis. One of 
the teachers, Sliemaryah, was sent to Alexandria; Chus- 
hiel to Cyrene; Nathan ben Isaac Cohen to Narbonne, 
and Moses to Cordova. With the infiltration of the 
Babylonian Jewish influence, the Jews of Spain were 
roused to a consciousness and appreciation of their valu- 
able opportunity. Everything favored their becoming 
the main champions of, and the most valuable contribu- 
tors to the science of Jewish thought. The common 
schools were not closed to them, nor did the higher seatc 
of learning bar them from the knowledge these were 
dispensing. All the sciences and arts welcomed Jews, 
as promoters, provided they had talent requisite for their 
mastery. Social equality with the Moors also was not 
denied them. Finding Moorish activity to be devoted 

Grammarians and Lexicographers 51 

to the field of Arabic grammar, the Spanisli Jews soon 
became mastered by an ambition to be active in the field 
of Hebrew grammatical research. Many a person felt 
that the proper definition of Hebrew terms, the proper 
use of various parts of Hebrew speech, and the proper 
syntactical correlation of sentences, were not yet thor- 
oughly understood, even by those who used the Hebrew, 
both in their daily speech and in their literary imder- 
takings; and that Biblical exegesis would certainly be 
aided materially, if Hebrew in these various aspects were 
better understood. Xever, in all the history of Israel, 
did the future seem to hold out richer promises than 
were held out to Jews in the days constituting the Tenta 
Century. Former generations had, it is true, produced 
celebrities whose names became enveloped by the rich 
halo of immortality. These days, however, produced 
stars of a higher magnitude on the horizon of Jewish 
scholarship, than had ever been attained before this 
era. Men who built wisely on the traditions of the past, 
and, at the same time, did not fail to avail themselves 
of the valuable researches made by the Moors; men who 
may be declared to have separated the dross of the fanci- 
ful from the purer metal of truth ; men who broke the 
fetters binding their co-religionists to the unreasonable, 
and won the freedom of scientific speculation ; men who 
may be regarded as the deliverers, rescuing Jewish exe- 
gesis from total stagnation, are the promising children 
of this age, in the development of Jewish culture. 

The first authority to claim our attention is Joseph 
Ibn Abitur, who was born in the year 905 at Merida, and 
died at Damascus, in 970. The place of his activity was 
attractive Cordova, where he was a disciple of the Baby- 

52 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

Ionian Rabbi Moses, who liad been sent out to collect 
contributions for the school of Sora. Upon the death 
of his teacher, Abitur was a rival candidate, with iiis 
teacher's son, for the Ealibinate of Cordova. His fail- 
ure to get that high office, filled him with keen disap- 
pointment, and although he afterwards could have been 
made the Eabbi of this Spanish metropolis, and could 
have had his teacher's son deposed, he was perfectly will- 
ing to deny himself that honor. Although engaged, in 
the main, in writing liturgical poetry for the S3TiagogU!3, 
much of which has found its way into the ritual still in 
use, and which shows him to have had a deep insight 
into the beauties of the sacred tongue, his activity was, 
by no means, limited to this class of literature. Tal- 
mudist as he was, he could not help but be influenced liy 
the Talmudic spirit, in his endeavor to establish the 
correct sense of Scriptures. He must have written ex- 
tensively on the Biblical books, in spite of the fact that 
only fragments of his Commentary on the Book of 
Psalms have come down to us. His diction is tinged 
with Aramaisms, and the peculiarity distinguishing him 
from his predecessors in the field of exegesis, is that he 
coined many new Hebrew words, and thus increased tiie 
already great wealth of the Hebrew vocabulary. 

The man with whom the florescence of Andalusian 
culture began, and who won for himself unsurpassed 
fame in the history of dispersed Jewry, is Chasdai Ibn 
Shaprut. He saw the light of day at Jaen in the year 
915, and died at Cordova in 990. Being of wealthy par- 
entage, nothing was spared to give him a many-sided 
education in the classics and sciences of that day. His 
acquaintance with Hebrew, Arabic and Latin was all- 

GRA:\r:NrARTAX.s axd Lexicographers 53 

embracing, and his eminence in the medical profession 
was so marked that after the discovery of a panacea, 
he was made physician to the then ruling Caliph. He 
also took an active part in the settlement of diplomatic 
relations between Spain and foreign powers, thus win- 
ning for himself the appreciation and gratitude of his 
countrymen. It was he, through whose influence, Eabbi 
Moses ben Enoch, interested in the restoration of the 
academy of Sora, became the director of the destinies of 
Cordova's Jews, and who made of Andalusia a second 
Babylonia. While there are no works extant, from 
Chasdai's pen, which directly help to promote the un- 
derstanding of Scriptures, it is asserted that he could 
not have been altogether idle in tliis sphere. Some men 
are the powers behind thronc^s. They are the sources of 
other people's inspiration. They do the thinking and 
guiding. They call attention to noteworthy facts, and 
lend to the undertakings of others, wealth-producing 
suggestions. Such a man Chasdai undoubtedly was. 
We know him to have been in correspondence, not only 
with the King of the Chazars, who constituted a separate 
Jewish State in the East, but also with the men of whom 
we shall now treat, and to wliom, by means of his corre- 
spondence, he, with the treasure house of his Hebrew 
erudition, must have been of invaluable assistance, in 
the prosecution of their grammatical undertakings. 

Cordova being the center of Andalusian Jewish, cul- 
ture, it naturally succeeded in attracting into its pre- 
cincts, unparalleled for inspiration, scholars from every 
other city in the Spanish Peninsula. One of the schol- 
ars, thus attracted, was Men ahem ben Saruk, bom at 
Tortosa in 910. He came to Cordova at an early age, 

54 Jewtstt Biblical Commentators 

and upon Jiis arrival in that metropolis, was befriended 
not only by Chasdai's father, but also by Chasdai him- 
self. Menahem's forte v/as philology. It was claimed 
for him that he understood thoroughly the laws that are 
basic to the structure of languages, and could account, 
with ease, for the causes that give rise to distinct lin- 
guistic phenomena. Encouraged by Chasdai, Menahem 
undertook the production of a dictionary of the He- 
brew language, to which he gave the name, " Machbe- 
retlV^ " the key." It was the first complete work of its 
kind. While the need may have been felt before his day 
for a lexicon of Hebrew terms contained in the Bible, 
no one had, as j^et, ventured upon so gigantic and, there- 
fore, formidable an undertaking. The theories he ad- 
vanced in his work were rather strange from our point of 
view, and, therefore, remained by no means unattacked. 
His most bitter critic was his contemporary, Dunash. He, 
too, as we shall see later on, could lay claim to profound 
grammatical knowledge, and to a pronounced linguistic 
talent. His strictures on JMenahem's work were so se- 
vere and thorough-going, that they made ^Fenahem lose 
not only the good will, but also the friendship of Chas- 
dai, his disillusioned devoted patron. Menahem never 
took the occasion to defend himself against his assailant, 
but left it to his pupils to plead his cause before the 
tribunal of scholarship. While Menahem does not evi- 
dence exact knowledge of the forms of the Hebrew lan- 
guage, he nevertheless recognized that the language was 
governed by definite rules. In the explanations he gave 
for Hebrew terms, he frequently employed the termi- 
nology of the Arabic grammarians, although that termi- 
nologv, because of differences in connotation was not al- 

Grammarians and Lextcograptters 55 

ways applicable. Meiiahem did not know anything of 
the theory of tri-literal stems, in the Hebrew language, 
and, if he was aware of it, he completely ignored it. He 
believed not only in bi-lileral, but also in uni-literal 
roots. That, therefore, he should have arrived at some 
of the strangest conclusions as to the meaning of Bib- 
lical texts, requires no special proof for one acquainted 
witli the Hebrew language on the l)asis of the tri-literal 
tlieory. A point worthy of note, in connection with 
Menahem's theory, is the principle that strange words 
in the Bible may be explained best in the light of their 
context. For this purpose Menahem employs the struc- 
ture of Biblical poetry and rhetoric. Whereas much 
that Menahem advocated has been overthrown, he cer- 
tainly is entitled to a prominent phiee among the liter- 
ary men of his time, on account of the impetus he gave 
to the study of Hebrew. And had he lived longer than 
960, who knows but what he might have seen the errox' 
of his theories, and tluis put Biblical scholars under 
greater obligations to him than he did. 

We have already mentioned the name of Dunash, who 
attacked ^Menahem. This Dunash is known by the name, 
Dunash Ibn Labrat. He was born in Bagdad in the 
year 920, and devoted himself, more particularly, to the 
study of philology, like Menahem, the object of his se- 
vere criticism. While still a young man, he found his 
way into Spain. He, like hundreds of others, was at- 
tracted to beautiful and fascinating Andalusia. He 
knew that his talents would thrive in that healthful at- 
mosphere of culture, for which Andalusia was famed. 
He felt that there his soul could soar to dreamed-of 
heights, amid the freedom which the Moors held out to 

56 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

every student. Having studied Arabic, he soon began 
to trace the resemblances and differences between the 
Arabic hmguage and its sister tongue, the Hebrew. Kot 
is he a poet of mean order. Studied in the light of a 
singer, he is regarded the founder of a new Hebrew 
meter, patterned after an Arabic model. It was the 
" Machbereth" of Menahem, which gave Dunash the 
greatest opportunity for the display of his specific talent. 
Unwelcome as Dunash's criticism of Menahem was, he 
justified it on tlie ground of his conviction that Menahem 
was wrong, and tliat it is the duty of wise men to cor- 
rect one another, in s^iite of the fact, that it is claimed 
that Dunash would not have been so severe in his criti- 
cism, had he not desired to ingratiate himself with 
Chasdai, and thus displace Menahem in Chasdai's af- 
fections. In the introduction to his criticism, Dunash 
treats of the various classes of letters in the Hebrew 
alphabet, the parts of speech, inflections, various kinrls 
of sentences, the syntactical relations of clauses, the 
pecularities of the Biblical text, synonyms, words writ- 
ten " plene '^ and " defective,'" superfluous letters, euphe- 
mistic expressions, the Aramaic and Arabic languages, 
and the thirteen traditional rules of Biblical exegesis. 
Dunash's main contention is that Hebrew words can 
be traced back to tri-literal stems, only sometimes to 
bi-literal, but never to uni-literal stems. As Dunash 
had criticised Menahem, so he also criticised the Gaon 
Saadia, in a work which has come down to us in frag- 
mentary form. On the death of the two opponents 
Menahem and Dunash, their disciples continued for 
some time to array themselves in hostile attitude against 
one another, seeking at one another's expense, honors 
on the battlefield of grammatical research. 

Grammarians and Lexicographers 57 

To one of tlic men taking an active part in this war- 
fare, attention must needs be directed. We refer to 
Juda ben David Chayyug, a grammarian born in Mo- 
rocco in 950. Having moved to Cordova, he became a 
pupil of Menahem, and took up the cause of his teacher 
against Dunash. Well versed in Arabic grammatical 
literature, he applied the methods of Arabic gramma- 
rians, to the explanation of Hebrew grammar. His 
predecessors had often had difficulty in accounting for 
ditferences between strong and weak verbs. Chayyug 
solved the problem. He held that all Hebrew stems are 
tri-literal, and that if one letter does not appear in a 
given form, it may be regarded as quiescent in one way 
or other. This theory he expounded in a work entitled, 
" A Book of Verbs Containing Weak Letters.'' The 
work consists of three parts. The first part treats of 
vei'bs in which the first radical is a weak letter ; the sec- 
ond part of verbs in which the second radical is a weak 
letter, and the third part of verbs in which the third 
radical is a weak letter. He also wrote a treatise on 
verbs containing double letters, that is, such in which 
the second and tliird radicals are the same; two trea- 
tises on punctuation, expounding the principles funda- 
mental to the Masoretic use of vowels and consonants; 
brother treatise, entitled "The Book of Extracts," in 
which he discusses verbal stems in the order in which 
they occur in the Bible. The influence Chay5aTg exerted 
upon Hebrew grammarians, was so epoch-making, that 
it is still felt to-day by men devoting themselves to the 
promotion of Hebrew grammar, because the knowledge 
they present, is for the most part, based upon the discov- 
eries of Chayyug. 

58 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

One of the first men who felt the influence of Chay- 
yag's grammatical discoveries was Abulwalid, born in 
Cordova towards the close of the Tenth Century. He 
spent a part of his youth in Lucena. Whether he was a 
pupil of Chayyug, is not certain. The fact remains, 
hrwever, that he revered Chayyug deeply, and valued 
his discoveries. Althougli Ahulwalid was a physician 
and wrote medical works, he devoted himself most as- 
siduously to the study of the Hebrew language, in order 
to unravel by means of his knowledge the intent of 
Scriptures. His works were not written in Cordova. 
On account of political difficulties, he was obliged to flee 
that city, and only after wandering about for a long time, 
did he settle in Saragosa, where he wrote his works. 
His first treatise was " The Supplement," which, as its 
name indicates, supplements the treatise of Cha37'ug on 
weak verbs. He tells us that he had road the -Scriptures 
eight times, and explains some odd fifty roots, not treated 
by Chayyug. Nor does he always agree with Chayyug. 
He wrote another book entitled " The Awakening,'' 
whicli is in the nature of a reply to an anonymous at- 
tack made upon him, on the ground tliat he, in criticis- 
ing Chayyug, liad forgotten some of Chayyug's mistakes. 
In this reply Abulwalid gives valuable grammatical ob- 
servations. In the polemics, which subsequently were 
carried on between himself and Samuel Ibn Nagdela, 
many obscure points in Hebrew grammar are expounded. 
Abulwalid's principal ^vork was "The Critical Investi- 
gation," consisting of two parts; the first treating of tlie 
grammar of the language, the second beiag a vocabulary. 

The most celebrated contemporary and rival of Abul- 
walid, in the field of grammatical research, was Samuel 


ben Joseph Ibn Nagdela, called also " Samuel Hanagid." 
He was born in Cordova, in 993, and died at Granada 
1055. He, like all other great men of that day, enjoyed a 
thorough linguistic training. Arabic caligraphy is re- 
ported to have been one of the disciplines, for which he 
sliowed special aptitude. Some of the letters he wrote in 
his artistic style fell into the hands of the ruling Vizier. 
At first, in consequence of the admiration of his letters, 
he was mnde the private secretary of the Vizier, and 
afterwards, upon the death of that official, King Hal)us 
raised him to the office held by his patron. Although 
exalted to the position of a Prince, he continued his 
studies among the Jews of Granada. He was the Nagid, 
or chief, the Rabbinical authority, and the intercessor 
or representative of his co-religionists. He was the 
friend of all students, who sought culture, and afforded 
them the means for their education. He believed in 
makin^T^ knowledge as abundant as are the waters which 
cover the sea. In his estimation, only knowledge, and 
nothing else, was power. Of the writings of Samuel but 
few have come down to us. One of these is his introduc- 
tion to the Talmud. Another is the fragment of a work 
entitled " Ben Mishle," containing aphorisms and max- 
ims. Another is a collection of philosophical medita- 
tions, known by the name of " Ben Qoheleth." His 
principal grammatical work is " Sefer Ha-Osher," no 
longer in existence. In it, he went beyond the principles 
laid down by Chayyug. Citations of this work are found 
in Ibn Ezra, which indicate the independence of Sam- 
uel's thought. An example of his theories is the fol- 
lowing. He claims that the verbs like " Nathan " (to 
give) and " Laqach " (to take) are not tri-consonantal, 

GO Jewish Biblical Commentators 

Ijiit bi-consonantal. The forms, " Yutan " (Lev. 11 : 38) 
and " Yuqach " (Isaiah 41) : 25,) are not to be regarded 
" Ifophal ^^ forms, but passives of the " Qal." 

These are the characters who may be considered, with 
justice, the links between the phase of Biblical interpre- 
tation, developed in Palestine, and that other phase, 
which made its appearance in the Eleventh Century, in 
Western and Southwestern Europe. These men, by vir- 
tue of the grammar and lexicography cultivated l)y 
them, in which they were influenced by the example of 
Arabic grammarians, were the natural forerunners of 
that exegetical age, in the more modern sense of the 
term, which was about to dawn. They, no doubt, felt 
that in order to be able to understand the literature of a 
language, the structure and syntax of the language must 
be thoroughly mastered. They lived themselves into 
the spirit of the ancient Hebrew, and, thus, not only 
put themselves into the position of discovering for them- 
selves, the intent of the Scriptures, but also enabled tlio 
critics of later days to give those explanations of the 
Biblical text, for which they, in their turn, received a 
prominent place in the history of Bible exegesis. 


Rashi and the Tossafists 

Spain was, beyond all doubt, the most prolific country 
in the production of Jewish literature during the middle 
ages. In fact, as long as the Jew was permitted to reside 
within its borders, he continued to add from day to day 
to the already extensive storehouse of literary treasures, 
the foundation of which was laid by the grammarians 
and lexicographers treated in the previous chapter. 
Even during the days of Jewish persecutions, instituted 
by the church, after the expulsion of Moors from the 
Spanish Peninsula, master-minds followed faithfully 
that line of research opened by Arabic savants. 

But Spain was not the only country where men of 
light and leading were spurred on to take up the grate- 
ful task of interpreting the relation of Jewish thought 
to the prevailing thought of the world of that time and 
of unfolding (because Jewish thought was based upon 
Biblical thought) the intent and purpose of Scriptures. 
The influence of Moors extended beyond the Pyrenees. 
These mountains separated the countries only physically 
from one another. The peoples residing in the several 
lands on both sides of the mountain chain could not 
help but be moulded by the civilization for which the 
neighboring nations stood. The Renaissance, for which 
the never-to-be-forgotten Moors were responsible, both 
in the sciences and the arts, swept everything before it. 
France, nearest neighbor to the North, could not resist 

64 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

the Moorisli revolutionary culture, to the potency of 
which the people of other European domains perforce 
succumbed. French Jews were quick to feel the magic 
touch, which gave both new and bright tone and color 
to the researches carried on by their Spanisli co-religion- 
ists. The French Jews were, furthermore, prepared for 
the dawn of a new epoch in the realm of their religious 
literature. It is to France, therefore, that our attention 
shall be directed, more especially because in the field of 
Biblical exegesis, chronological treatment of interpreters 
is of great importance in tracing the development of 
Jewish exegesis as a science. Although in those days, the 
means of communication between peoples living at great 
distances from one another were not those of railroad 
and telegraph, thought, nevertheless, rushed like mighty 
air currents from one section of the world to another 
and in every instance, left behind perceptible traces of 
its clarifying work. 

France, like Spain, was inhabited by Jews in the early 
centuries of the Christian Era, despite the many and 
stringent church laws enacted against them,' denying 
them privileges that should have been theirs, as children 
of God. Instances in point are the decree of the Council 
of Macon (581), forbidding the appointment of Jews 
as judges and tax collectors; the decree of the Council 
of Paris (614), prohibiting Jews from exercising civic 
rights over Christians; and the decree of the Council of 
Narbonne, interdicting the singing of Psalms by Jews 
at the burial of their own dead. Proscriptions against 
Jews continued to be formulated until the time of Char- 
lemagne, when their life in France, fortunately, for a 
time, at least, became more bearable and continued thus 

Rasiii and the Tossafists 65 

until the reign of Amnio, in the middle of the ninth 
century, with whose advent to the throne, suffering again 
became the badge of Jews. It was in the eleventh cen- 
tury that the Viscount of Narbonne, happily prevented 
in his district, at least, the massacre of Jews by the Cru- 
saders, who, without mercy, killed Jews, as they did the 
Moors of Spain. 

Narbonne was one of the largest, if not the largest 
community of France. In the year 948, Nathan ben 
Isaac Cohen, one of the four teachers sent from Sora 
to collect funds to prevent the extinction of that school, 
was brought thither by his Spanish- Arabic captor. His 
learning was soon recognized It was felt that he pos- 
sessed power, of which no man living in the West could 
justly boast. Until these days, the Occident could not 
compare in point of Jewish scholarship with the dying 
Orient. It was, therefore, that teachers, hailing from 
Babylonia, were welcomed as guides and directors of 
European countries. As Rabbi Moses had lent dignity 
and promise to Cordova and made it the most prominent 
Spanish seat of Jewish learning, so Eabbi ISTathan raised 
Narbonne out of its obscurity to heights of scholarship, 
which it perhaps never dreamed of occupying. Among 
the scholars of that century was the grammarian, Tal- 
mudist and great Rabbinical authority, Rabbenu Ger- 
shon, called " The Light of the Exile," who hailed from 
Metz, had a school in Mayence and while a German in 
spirit, nevertheless influenced the thought of France 
through his French pupils (who came to listen to his in- 
struction), and through his correspondence conducted 
with the French Rabbis. The man through whom, in 
all probability', he moulded French Jewish thought most 

66 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

was Eashi. Although not his pupil, Rashi enjoyed the 
benefit of Gershon's method and theories by way of in- 
heritance from an -uncle. " Rashi " is an abbreviation, 
consisting of the initials of the words, " Rabbi Solomon 
ben Isaac." Sometimes he is called " Parshandatha," 
literally signifying " Interpreter of the Law." He was 
born in 1040, in the city of Troyes, the same year that 
Rabbenu Gershon died, and it has been often remarked 
that he was ushered into the world in order to make 
good the loss the world sustained by the demise of Gor- 
shon. It is erroneously claimed at times, that Rashi 
hailed from Lunel. Tradition also holds that he was a 
lineal descendant of the great Talmudic scholar, Jochanan 
Hassandler. And another legend asserts that he was a 
native of Worms in Germany, where — in the wall of the 
synagogue, the people still point to a concavity, produced 
by the pressure of Rashi's mother, who, while pregnant 
with him, pressed against the wall to prevent herself 
from being run down by a wagon, driven through the 
narrow lane, for the express purpose of bringing about 
her death. Despite these several legends, the fact re- 
mains that he was born on French soil in the city of 
Troyes, was the Rabbi of that community, onlv visited 
Worms, and probably taught the law there on the occa- 
sion of his visit, in the chapel adjoining the synagogue, 
called the Rashi Chapel, but never lived in Worms per- 
manently, any more than he did in Prague or in some 
of the African and Asiatic Jewish centers to which his 
travels extended. Rashi took charge of the spiritual 
destinies of the Jews of his native city at the age of 
twenty-fivo, upon his return from the Jewish seats of 
learnini:: he visited in Germanv. He witnessed the be- 

Easiit axd ttte Tossafists 67 

ginning of the first Crusade in 1095, in tlie atrocities of 
which he lost some of his clearest relatives and best 
friends. The year 1105 marks his death. Xever in all 
the history of the Jewish people did scholar live, who 
gave evidence of greater industry and perseverance than 
Rashi displayed. Apart from the fact that he mastered 
the composite learning of his day and gave the result of 
his researches to the world, not only in the training 
of numerous disciples, but also in the creation of a 
monumental commentary to the Bible, he wrote a com- 
mentary to the Mishnah and Talmud, as a rule printed 
on the inner margin of folio volumes, alongside of the 
text, as is the case with his commentary on the Bible. 
Of this commentary on the Talmud, but one word need 
be said in order to appreciate its great value. The Tal- 
mudic text is unintelligible without the light thrown 
upon it by Eashi^s explanation. Had it not been for 
the services rendered by Eashi in this direction, the Tal- 
mud, in all probability, would have remained a work 
closed with seven seals. It shows him to have possessed 
not only marked familiarity with the Talmudic idiom, 
often obscure in the extreme because of its terseness, but 
also a thorough acquaintance with the institutions the 
Talmud treats and with the spirit characterizing its 
many intricate discussions. His production of a com- 
mentary on a part of the Midrash and his composition 
of some of the prayers and reflections, still having a 
place in the ritual of the Orthodox Synagogue, may not 
be relevant in a treatment ol Kashi, as Bible exegete; 
nevertheless reference to these undertakings must needs 
be made, in order to indicate the gigantic proportions of 
the literature he left to posterity. 

68 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

As Bible exegoto, hi.s influence extended not simply 
beyond tbe borders of his own scbool, but beyond the con- 
fines of France into Germany^ Spain and Italy, and in 
the course of a very short space of time, all over the en- 
tire world. ISTor were his interpretations of moment only 
in his day. Even at the present time, as much as in the 
days immediately succeeding his life, his interpretations 
are studied by all students of the Bible, in their desire to 
understand the spirit of the various books of Scriptures. 

But because his interpretation elicited almost world- 
wide attention and often evoked the most favorable com- 
ments at the hands of his contemporaries, it must not be 
imagined, that he encountered no opposition. Tn Tbn 
Ezra, to whose activity we shall refer in a subsequent 
chapter, he found a critic Avorthy of his steel. Tn a 
number of instances, Tbn Ezra criticises Rashi's conclu- 
sions severely. This is but natural, in view of the fact 
that they started from altogether different premises and 
pursued widely varying methods. 

Bashi's commentary on the Bible, written in Eab- 
binical Hebrew, must be studied in the light of the 
exegetical tendencies prevailing in his day. if it is 
to be thoroughly understood. Simultaneous with the 
flowering of Bible exegesis in Spain, there arose a school 
of exegesis in l^orthern Africa, whose purpose was to 
establish the " Peshat." the simple, the natural explana- 
tion of Scriptures, in opposition to the " Derash," the 
traditional, the derived, sense. On many sides, it was 
felt that neither the " Peshat " nor the " Derash " alone, 
can unravel the meaning of Biblical passages. The 
happy combination of both, consisting of the virtue? of 
these methods, was, for the proper understanding of 


Scriptures, deemed essential by a uuiiiber of men who 
observed with closest attention, the rivalry existing be- 
tween the exponents of these several tendencies. Kashi 
was one of the champions of the theory, which sought 
to bring about a compromise between the " Peshat " and 
the '' Derash.'' He interspersed the Aggadic and Mid- 
rashic with the philological, a circumstance, which, in 
all likelihood, accounted for the popularity of his com- 
mentary. One can readily detect liashi's indebtedness 
to the Targumim, the Talmud and the Masora. Toward 
these he leaned not only to a great extent, but mayhap 
too much. Trained as he was in Talmudic schools, he 
could not easily emancipate himself from the Aggadic 
interpretation as he should have done, in order to make 
his work stand more successfuly the scientific test. One 
fact must be emphasized witJi reference to him, and this 
is, that he aims at that clearness and conciseness, worthy 
of emulation by the men in his sphere of life, lie is 
never daunted by the obscurity of an expression or 
passage. Whenever he realizes that the reader may not 
comprehend the meaning of a phrase with the aid of the 
explanation given by him, he not infrequently gives 
French equivalents for the Hebrew terms. It may be 
stated in this connection that the French vocabulary em- 
ployed by him is of great assistance in determining the 
phonology of the old French spoken in his day. Popular 
as Eashi^s commentary was, it naturally evoked praise, 
not only at the hands of Jews, but also at the hands of 
non-Jews, many of whom have based numerous inter- 
pretations given by them, upon explanations found in 
the Rashi commentary, although Pashi does not always 
evidence the scientific method. Suffice it to say, that 

70 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

he, like others, contributed his valuable quota to Bib- 
lical exegesis. Among non-Jews, who were affected by 
Rashi's method, were Luther and Nicolas de Lyra. 

In order to be able to get a clear conception of Rashi's 
method, a few illustrations and interpretations given 
by liim, will prove of great assistance. 

In interpreting the first verse of Genesis, he remarks: 
" Rabbi Isaac says, ' The Torah should not have com- 
menced with this passage, but with Exodus 12 : 2, read- 
ing, " This month shall be to you the beginning of 
months, because it is the first commandment given to 
Israel.'' Why, therefore, does the Torah begin with the 
creation story ? ' The answer to this question is given 
in Psalm 111 : 6, reading, ' The power of his works, lias 
God told unto his people, that he might give them the 
heritage of nations,' With this as a foundation, the 
Israelites could answer, if heathens should accuse them 
of taking their countries by force, that the whole earth 
belongs to God; that He is its Creator; that He has the 
right to give it to or take it away from such people as 
he desires." Continuing, Rashi says, " that the world 
was created because of the Law and because of Israel, 
but if you desire the simple explanation of this expres- 
sion, then the text must be translated, that at the crea- 
tion of heaven and earth, the earth was without form and 

The eighth verse of Genesis I reads : " And God called 
the expanse heaven." Rashi liere endeavors to explain 
the word '^ heaven " — " Shamayim." He says that it 
may consist of the following: either the words " Sa " 
and " Mayim," meaning " carrying water " ; the words 
" Sham and Mayim," " there is water " ; or the words 
" Esh " and " iMayim," " fire and water." 

Rashi and the Tussafists 71 

Referring to (Jenesis 49 : 22, wliicli reads, "■ Joseph 
is a fruitful bough by a spring, the branches of which 
run over the wall," Rashi remarks, on the basis that the 
word for " branches," '* Banoth," originally signified 
'' daughters," that many interpretations may be given 
for this passage, but that it may mean that the daugh- 
ters of Egypt ascended a wall to behold the beauty of 
Joseph, since " Shur," the word for " wall," may be 
taken as the verb connoting " to look." 

Exodus 1 : 5 reads, " A new king arose over Egypt," 
which is explained by Rashi on the authority of one 
teacher, that the Pharaoh was really a new king and on 
the authority of another, that only new regulations 
were formulated with regard to the Jews and that the 
king merely acted as though he did not know Joseph. 

Yerse 10 of the same chapter reads, " Come, let us 
deal wisely," and is an expression always signifying pre- 
meditated preparation to carry out an express purpose. 

Chapter 21:1 of Exodus reads, " And these are the 
ordinances," and is explained as follows : " In every 
place where the word ' these ^ is found standing by itself, 
the matter which follows is distinct from that which 
preceded ; but wherever the expression ^ and these ' oc- 
curs, that which follows, only supplements that wdiich 

Interpreting the first verse of Psalm 2, reading, 
" Wherefore do nations rage and people imagine a vain 
thing," Rashi remarks that our Rabbis believe this 
Psalm to refer to King David, of whom it is said when 
the Philistines heard that Israel had anointed David 
to be king over them, tlio Pliilistines gathered together 
tlieir forces and fell by his hand. 

72 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

Interpreting Psalm 120, Kashi explains that the super- 
scription of each of the songs of the collection, of whicli 
Psalm 120 is the first, is worded " Song of Degrees/' 
because the Levites were in the habit of singing one of 
these songs on each of the fifteen steps leading from 
" the Court of Israel " " to the court of the women '' in 
the Temple. 

It is needless to cite additional examples to illustrate 
the character of the interpretations, which Eashi was in 
the habit of giving. The few which have been furnislied 
indicate how, in his work, the plain and the derived sense 
are mingled together in view of their equal importance 
in his eyes. 

Eashi^s effort to harmonize the simple with the de- 
rived sense, did not cease to have champions, with his 
death, in the year 1105. For several centuries after his 
demise, a class of men followed in his wake, who added 
interpolations to his commentary. These men are known 
by the name of " Tossafists '' — " glossators." The char- 
acteristic of this school was its complete emancipation 
from authority, in consequence of which it "took tlie 
liberty of correcting and even changing the conclusions 
of its much revered pioneer. Members of Eashi's own 
family continued and amended the work Eashi began. 
Among the Tossafists — the glossators, the' man who 
comes first to our notice is Joseph ben Simon Kara. He 
stated that the words of Scriptures are in every instance 
intelligible and require no additional explanations; that 
the Midrash purposes only to cultivate or encourage re- 
search in the Scriptures; that the reader who does not 
know the natural sense of Scriptures and inclines toward 
the Midrash, may be likened to one who is dragged along 

Kashi and the Tossafists 73 

by a raging stream and is therefore ready to grasp every 
straw in order to rescue himself from destruction; and 
that he who turns honestly to the word of God, will be 
sure to recognize its true significance and unity. 

While Joseph ben iSimon Kara plays a prominent part 
as Tossahst, greater luminary by far is liashi's grandson, 
Samuel ben Meir. lie was a native of Kamerupt, a 
town located near Troyes. He was born in 1085 and 
died about 117-1, He is knovv^n by the name of " Kash- 
bam," an abbreviation, consisting of the initials of his 
title and name. He was a pupil of his grandfather and 
followed the Aggadic interpretation for a time, but 
eventually emancipated himself from it to a great ex- 
tent. Kashbam's knowledge of Hebrew Grammar was 
tliorough, as was also his acquaintance with Spanish 
Hebrew literature. He was recognized as an authority 
not only by Jews, but also by Christians. To the latter, 
he at times explained difficult Biblical passages. His 
principal work was his commentary on the Pentateuch. 
That which gave to it individuality was its independence 
from the received interpretations found in the Talmud 
and Midrash and its return to the "Peshat." In his 
commentary to Genesis, he states that the interpretation 
of a Biblical verse must not transcend the natural sense, 
even though the Torah, by allusions, may attempt to 
teach the principles of the Haggadah and Halacha. He 
declares that he himself had frequently disputed with 
Rashi and that Eashi confessed to him that if he had 
had the time, he, Rashi, would probably have revised 
his commentary in order to make it accord more thor- 
oughly with the natural sense. In a word, Rashbam 
tried to liarmonize his exegesis with the exegesis of his 

74 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

time and permitted the traditional interpretation to ob- 
tain only, provided it was not in conflict with the natu- 
ral sense. He did not hesitate to attack Ibn Ezra any 
more than Ibn Ezra feared to criticise Rashi. Some of 
his interpretations, which are of interest, are the follow- 
ing : He held that the creation story was put at the be- 
ginning of the Torah in order to accentuate and explain 
the Fourth Commandment, which enjoins the keeping 
of the Sabbath; that Moses told the Israelites the crea- 
tion story in order to make them feel that the world 
was not always as luxuriant with life as in later days, 
but that in earlier times it was indeed empty and void. 
Eashbam explained the names of God in Exodus 2 : 14, 
as verbal forms, indicative oi God's eternal existence. 

With reference to Ecclesiates, he states that the 
words " vanity of vanities " are not a part of the original 
text, but, in all probability, the superscription of an 
editor. In his interpretation, he shows a marked ac- 
quaintance with French philology and with the Latin 
language, and he was also no tyro in geography, as evi- 
denced by his comments* on Genesis 25 : 31,- reading, 
" And Israel journeyed and spread his tents beyond the 
tower of flocks ''; on Xumbors 21: 28, reading, "A fire 
has gone out of Cheshbon and a flame from the city of 
Sihon : it hath consumed Ar-Moab, the men of the 
high places of the Arnon:'' and on Deuteronomy 2: 3, 
which reads, " Ye have travelled long enough around 
the mountain, turn yourselves northward. '^ Eashbam 
also wrote commentaries on the Talmud, but in this prov- 
ince, he did not reach the height of his grandfather's 

A younger brother of Samuel, Jacob ben Meir, known 

Easiii and the Tossafists 75 

as " l^abbcnu Tain "' was also a Tossafist of marked 
scholarship and proiiouiiced mental analysis. He was 
born in 1100 and died 1171. While an exegete of the 
Bible, he did not come up to his brother Samuel in this 
particular, but far surpassed him in Talmudic interpre- 
tation. Grammatical studies engaged his attention to 
such an extent that he enterea the breach between Mena- 
hem ben Saruk and Dunash with a work called, " Hakh- 
raoth '' (decisions) in which he protected Menahem 
against the onslaughts of his critic. 

While the Tossafists in France were numerous, but 
one more remains to be mentioned because of his celeb- 
rity, namely, Joseph Bechor Shor, who followed in the 
spirit of Rashbam in the creation of his Biblical com- 
mentary. It is only recently that the works of this man 
have been brought to light. 

Whereas the Biblical interpretations of Eashi and of 
the school of Tossafists became known throughout the 
then existing Jewry, on account of the power of dissemi- 
nation, which characterizes all thought, the persecutions 
to which French Jews were unfortunately subjected cer- 
tainly helped very materially in giving this new school 
its prestige. As Jews were driven out of France and 
their scholars felt obliged to settle in other communities, 
new centers for the spread of the teachings of the Tossa- 
fists were called into life. 

With this digression from the Spanish Jews, we return 
to them once more to take up the work they did in the 
field of Biblical exegesis, as based upon the valuable re- 
searches, made by those forerunners, the grammarians 
and lexicographers living at the time of Moorish sway. 


Ibx Ezra and the Kimchis. 

If there was ever time^ since the clays in which the 
Psalms were written, that the muses bestowed special 
favor upon the Jewish people, it was in the age marking 
the Spanish civilization with Moorish culture. Poetry 
became the pleasant and fascinating occupation of all 
men in Israel, who were prompted to explain Israel's 
place among the nations, its literary productions, and 
its religious ideals. Even those, who evidenced striking 
mental analysis, and in whom the imagination was not 
usually known to transcend its natural bounds, were 
occasionally given to the making of verse, as a happy 
pastime. While much of the poetry of the Spanish Jews 
was secular in character, the bulk of it, as may be readily 
supposed from the distinctive genius of the Jew, his 
longings, and his ideals, was decidedly religious. The 
ritual in use in the modern Synagogue can trace a great 
portion of its component material to these times when 
Judah took up, once more, its long silent harps, and at- 
tuned them to inspiring lay^. It appeared, indeed, as 
if history were to repeat itself, and the golden age of 
sacred literature, which lay between the end of the Baby- 
lonian Exile and the period of the l\raccabees, were to 
dawn once more. 

And yet. general as the writing of verse was among 
the Spanish Jews, they at no time ceased developing the 
science of Biblical criticism on the basis of those gram- 

80 ' Jewish Biblical Commentators 

matical and lexicographical researches carried on by the 
scholars of the Tenth Centnry. In fact, Spanish Jews 
were jealous of the place, which they had won for them- 
selves as interpreters of the Scriptures among, the Jewry 
of that day. 

Although every now and then the activities of a 
scholar in another country more than justified the in- 
ference that Spain would be compelled to cede the honor 
of being the leader in Jewish Biblical criticism, Spanish 
Jews were ever ready to assert, by some new commen- 
tary, the claim they continued to have to the position 
they had won for themselves through years of faithful 
application and hard work. 

The man who, in the Twelfth Century, made good 
the leadership of Spanish Jews in the realm of Jewish 
science, was Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra. He towers 
head and shoulders above the great celebrities of his 
time in that pursuit to which he consecrated his God- 
given talents. 

The Ibn Ezra family was one of the best known and 
most popular families in Spain. A number of its mem- 
bers had ascended to the enviable rungs of fame. To say 
that one was an Tbn Ezra was equivalent, in those days, 
to a certification of broadness, intellectuality^ and exten- 
sive scholarship. In the province of poetry more es- 
pecially, the Tbn Ezras had rendered great service. All of 
them were gifted with a poetic genius. Thev all seemed 
to be favored by the muses, and could attune their lyres 
to lofty themes. Whether Abraham Ibn Ezra belonged 
to this celebrated family cannot be stated with certainty. 
It is held that he undoubtedlv was a member of one of 
the famil/s more distant branches. 

Ibn Ezra and the Kimchis 81 

Abraham Ibn Ezra was born in Toledo, 1092, and 
died in Calahorra on the border of Navarre in Aragon, 
in 1167. But little is loiown of his early life. As soon 
as he knew how to value the education which comes from 
broad cultural surroundings, he migrated to Cordova, the 
rendezvous of Jewish thinkers and scholars. He is re- 
ported to have been married to an only daughter of 
Jehudah Halevi, the most celebrated Jewish singer and 
one of the leading philosophers of those times. The mar- 
riage is said to have been brought about in this wise. 
Jehudah Halevi was eking out a precarious existence 
by virtue of his devotion to scholarship. His poverty 
militated against his daughter's chances of marriage. 
Because of this fact, Jehudah's wife reprimanded him. 
He therefore made a vow, that lie would give his daugh- 
ter to the first man who would chance to enter his home 
on the following day. The first person to pass over the 
threshold of Jehudah's home on the morrow, was Ibn 
Ezra, no better, but probably worse conditioned than 
Jehudah Halevi's family. It was thus that Ibn Ezra 
won a life's companion, who shared with him more of 
sorrows than she did of joys, and he thus became re- 
lated to one of the greatest celebrities of the Spanish 

Ibn Ezra never, in his entire life, enjoyed those bless- 
ings calculated to insure his comfort and ease. In him 
the lot of most literary men met with stern and almost 
unbearable realization. He failed in everything but 
scholarly efforts. In his epigrammatic style, he com- 
mented upon his never disappearing misfortune and his 
ever continuing inability to amass wealth, by saying, " If 
I were to engage in shroud making, men would cease 

82 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

dying; or if I made candles, the sun would never set 
until the hour of my death." Though apparently 
doomed to lead a poverty-stricken life, he did not desist 
from trying to improve his condition. It is perhaps due 
to his ^'^ire to better his lot that he spent almost all 
his years in travel, endeavoring, in all probability, to find 
some place where fortune would deal more kindly with 
him and his. 

In his wanderings he visited Asia and Africa, and in 
Europe went to Eome, Lucca, Mantua, and later to 
Narbonne, Beziers, Ehodes and London. He won 
friends at every one of these places, for his personality 
was most interesting. Apart from the fact that he was 
a fascinating conversationalist, on account of his ex- 
tensive travel, intelligence and epigrams, display of wit, 
and use of thrusting satire (all characteristics to be 
encountered also in his works) he possessed so extensive 
a versatility of knowledge, that he was able to adapt 
himself to all persons and conditions, with which fortune 
brought him in contact. Ibn Ezra was poet, philoso- 
pher and mathematician, in addition to being a master 
in the field of Biblical exegesis. It was, therefore, but 
natural, that he could never have been at a loss for con- 
versational material, with which to make himself agree- 
able to his acquaintances. In fact, it may be said of him 
that he was a product of the culture of his age. Me was 
a creature of circumstances who would have been obliged 
to become what he was even in spite of himself. All the 
men these times produced were many-sided. No one 
could live for any length of time within the borders of 
Spain, without becoming moulded, to a great extent, by 
the numerous factors which entered into the civilization 

Ibn Ezra and the Kimchis 83 

of the Moors. Specialists, whose knowledge is restricted 
to one specific province of thonijht, to the exclusion of 
information in all other branches of learning, have no 
place in the economy of the Spanish people. The Span- 
ish specialist was always particnlarly strong in his own 
field, bnt. in addition, he mastered snfificient of other 
branches of learning to make his opinion on almost 
every other discipline of consequence. 

Grammarian as every Biblical exegete had to be, in 
order to be able to interpret the sense of Scriptures, 
Ibn Ezra must needs claim our attention first and fore- 
most, as a contributor to grammatical research. He not 
only translated Ben Chayyng's grammatical works, but 
he himself also -^Tote a work entitled " ^leasnayim " — 
" The Scale " — treating of vowels, verbal forms, stems, 
conjugations, and the exposition of Hebrew grammatical 
terminolog}'. In the introduction to his work he speaks 
of the sixteen Hebrew grammarians, beginning with 
Saadia, and ending with Levi ibn Tibbon. Another gram- 
matical work of his is "Zachoth," dealing with the 
purity of the Hebrew language ; and the third is his 
" Yessod Hadiqduq " discussing the whole province of 
the Hebrew language. Other works of minor importance 
along this line, are the "Sapha Berura " — the pure 
speech — and the " Sefer Hamispar ^^ treating of 

In his Bible exegesis, he was thoroughly original, 
bringing the light of his many-sided knowledge to bear 
upon the interpretation of Biblical passages. The pur- 
pose of his exegesis is understood best from the intro- 
duction to his commentary on the Pentateuch. He there 
speaks of four existing methods, employed in the inter- 

84 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

pretation of Scriptures, each one of which he criticises 
in turn. The first is that of the Gaonim, who, in his opin- 
ion, employed too much foreign matter in their explana- 
tion. The second is the method of the Karaites, whose 
ignoring of tradition he condemns. The third is that 
of the Allegorists, of which lie disapproves, because it 
makes claims for the concealed meaning of Scriptures, 
in the face of its oft-evident significance. And the 
fourth is that of the Derash, against which he warns 
readers, because it prefers the derived, or Aggadic sense 
to the natural meaning. In opposition to these methods, 
Ibn Ezra may be regarded the exponent of the Peshat, 
the natural sense. As such he differs from Rashi, to a 
great extent, as Eashi, in addition to advocating the 
Peshat, the natural sense, frequently adopts the Derash, 
the derived sense, in view of Rashi's belief that a Scrip- 
tural verse may have more than one meaning. Never did 
critic interpret Scriptures, who made a stronger plea 
for, and emphasized, more forcibly, the integrity of the 
text. The Masora w^as to him an infallible guide. Its 
conclusions were by him considered thoroughly authori- 
tative. Ibn Ezra pleads with a conviction, the strength 
of which is greatly increased by his peculiar style. He 
is terse and concise. He indulges in no superfluous lan- 
guage. He employs biting sarcasm, and frequently in- 
dulges in witticism. When he criticises an opponent, 
he is unmerciful in the analysis of the opponent's 
thought. In fact, there is nothing that he enjoyed more 
than to test the conclusions arrived at by other critics. 
Although an advocate of the Peshat, and being seriously 
opposed to the four existing methods of interpretation 
on grounds already specified, Ibn Ezra must not be con- 

Ibx Ezra and the Kimciiis 85 

sidered as being tlioroughly consistent. At times he de- 
fended the very methods against which he warns Bib- 
lical students. Upon a superficial examination, he ap- 
pears not to know his own mind. Nor can his works 
lay claim to symmetry and completeness. He frequently 
leaps from theme to theme, a phenomenon to be ex- 
plained, no doubt, by the nervous and restless life he 
was obliged to lead, in consequence of his almost unin- 
terrupted migration from country to country. The con- 
servatism of his critcism may be recognized by his un- 
willingness to concede that euphemistic changes were 
made in the Biblical text. Whatever Ibn Ezra does not 
understand, he considers one of the secrets beyond the 
comprehension of men. To elucidate these, he considers 
useless effort. In this connection it may not be amiss to 
state that he was an astrologist, and firmly believed that 
the stars, to a great extent, determine the destiny of man. 
It was on this score that he reconciled himself completely 
to that extreme poverty from which he found it impos- 
oible to extricate himself during his entire life. 

His exegetical works are a commentary on the Penta- 
teuch, (usually printed on the outer margin of the text 
in the large Hebrew editions of the Bible), on Isaiah, the 
twelve Minor Prophets, Psalms, Job, the five Scrolls, 
Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. There are two recensions 
of his commentary on Daniel; two also of his commen- 
tary on the Song of Songs and Esther, and also two on 
Proverbs. Works of his which incidentally contain ex- 
egetical matter are his " Yesod Mora," explaining the 
reason for Biblical commandments, the " Iggereth Shab- 
bath," treating of the Sabbath and " Sefer Hashem," 
discussing the name of God. 

86 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

On account of the lack ol" consistency displayed by 
Ibn Ezra in his commentaries, a number of super-com- 
mentaries came into existence, the purpose of which was 
to make his explanations more intelligible to the reader. 
The authors of these super-commentaries lived in the 
Fourteenth Century, and some of them as late as the 
Nineteenth. In order to get an idea of some of his con- 
clusions, let us take the following instances. 

As to angels, he says, that the angel between God and 
man is the human intellect. With regard to the story 
of the Garden of Eden, he rejects all allegorical inter- 
pretation, and adheres to the words of Scriptures, add- 
ing, of course, that it contains a concealed meaning. 
Such is his attitude also toward the accounts of the 
Tower of Babel, of the Prophet Bileam, of the visit made 
by the angels to Abraham, and of other similar events 
in Biblical history. Ibn Ezra questioned the claim that 
the whole of the Pentateuch could have been written by 
Moses. Thus, for example, he states that Genesis 36 : 31 
and following, the fragment treating of the kings who 
reigned over Edom before kings ruled over Israel, could 
not be of Mosaic authorship. Deut. chapter 34, he as- 
cribes to Joshua. Ibn Ezra was also the first to question 
the unity of the Book of Isaiah. He believed that the 
last part of the book, bearing the name of that prophet, 
was the product of a seer living in the years of the Baby- 
lonian captivity. He recognized the existence of glosses 
in the Scriptures, as for example, such expressions, 
"And the Canaanite was then in the land"; (Gen. 
12 : 6) ; " On the mount of the Lord it shall be seen " ', 
(Gen. 22 : 14) ; " These are the words which Moses spoke 
unto all Israel, on this side of the Jordan," (Deut. 1:1); 
" Behold, his bed was a bed of iron," (Deut. 3 : 11.) 

Ibn Ezra and the Kimchis 87 

His introduction to the Book of Psalms is of great 
interest, and a part of it is given here, in order to con- 
vey an idea of Ibn Ezra's theories. Says Ibn Ezra : " In 
this Book of Psahns are compositions, at the head of 
which are given the names of the composers. In the 
case of a number, as for example. Psalms 1, 91, etc., 
such names are missing. Tiie critics differ with regard 
to this Book of Psalms. Some claim that the whole of it 
was written by David. If we read at the top of a Psalm, 
both ' Jeduthun ' and ' David,' it is to be inferred 
that the Psalm is the composition of David, and was 
handed to Jeduthun, a director, for musical rendering. 
Psalm 72 is a prophecy of David, with regard to his son 
Solomon, and Psalm 90, the Prayer of Moses, was com- 
posed by David and delivered by him to Moses' descend- 
ents. The same theory liolds good with regard to Psalms 
in the superscription of which we find the names "Assaf," 
' The Sons of Korah,' etc. Other critics claim that this 
book contains no predictions of the future, and that it 
was, therefore, put by the ancients, together with Job 
and the Scrolls. Proofs of this are the terms '^ Song ' 
and ^ Prayer.' They held that Psalm 137 w^as written 
by a poet living in Babylonia, and that the same is the 
case with the Psalms headed ^ The Sons of Korah.' 
Psalm 119 is Babylonian. 

Ibn Ezra also holds that every Psalm, at the head of 
which we find the name " David " is composed either by 
David or by some poet who dedicated his composition to 
David. He claims that the Prayer of Moses was writ- 
ten by Moses, Psalms of Assaf by Assaf, and the Psalms 
of the Sons of Korah, by the Sons of Korah. The 
Psalm without any name in the superscription, he 

88 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

claims, may be by other singers than David, although 
some are by David. He believes the Book of Canticles 
to be an allegorical representation of the history of Is- 
rael from the days of the Patriarch Abraham, to the 
Messianic times, and that it emphasizes naught but the 
love of God for Israel. Daniel's vision is explained as 
follows, in his commentary to Deut. 7 : 4-8. " The first 
animal resembling a lion is Nebuchadnezzer, and the 
eagle's wings torn out of him are his descendants Ewil 
Merodach and Belshazzar. The second animal is the 
Persian Kingdom, which destroyed the Chaldean. The 
third animal is the Greek Kingdom, which began with 
the reign of Alexander the Great, and extended through 
the Eoman rule. Its four wings are the four kings 
among whom the Kingdom of Alexander was divided 
after his death. The fourth animal is the Kingdom of 
the Arabs. Its ten horns are the ten districts where 
Arabs resided. The little horn lies in the distant future 
and will make its appearance before the advent of the 

From this presentation of Ibn Ezra's thought, we turn 
once more to France, where, in the City of Xarbonne, the 
French center of Jewish activity, an illustrious family 
attained to prominence for its grammatical and exegeti- 
cal researches. The family is known by the name " Kim- 
chi," the head of that family being Joseph ben Isaac 
Kimchi, surnamed " Eikam," (a word consisting of the 
initials of his fuller name), who hailed from the south 
of France. He was greatly influenced by the thought 
of Ibn Ezra, who, in his travels, visited at the Kimchi 
home. Like Ibn Ezra, he uses the word " Shamar " — 
to keep — as the paradigm of the Hebrew verb. Ibn 

Ibn Ezra and the Kimchis 89 

Ezra, in turn, quotes him also in his commentaries. 
While Joseph ben Isaac Ivimchi was no doubt the means 
of transplanting Jewish Arabic philosophy into Chris- 
tian Europe, he did not contribute anything new or es- 
pecially valuable to Biblical exegesis, although he wrote 
a commentary on the Pentateuch, the Prophets, and 
some of the sacred writings. He indulged, however, in 
the writing of verses, the translation of Bachya Ibn Pa- 
kuda's " Duties of the Heart " from Arabic into He- 
brew, and turned GabiroFs '' Mibchar Ha-Peninim " — 
into metrical form. 

The winning of spurs on the part of the Kimchi fam- 
ily, in the field of Biblical exegesis, was left to the 
youngest son of Joseph ben Isaac, known by the name 
of David, and surnamed " Eedak," also an abbreviation 
of his fuller name. He was born in Narbonne in 1160, 
and died in 1235. Because his father had passed away 
while David was a mere child, his rearing was left to 
Moses, an elder brother. His main work consisted of 
an investigation into the Hebrew language, known as 
" Michlol," comprising two parts, the first of which 
treats of the grammar of the Hebrew language, while 
the second part, called " Book of Eoots " is a vocabulary. 
Another work of his is known as " Et Sofer," literally, 
" The Pen of the Scribe," which discusses the Masora 
and the Hebrew accents. The commentaries, which Re- 
dak left to posterity are on the earlier and later Proph- 
ets, the Psalms, the Book of Chronicles, and only on a 
part of Genesis. In the Proverbs and Psalms, he at- 
tacks the Messianic interpretations given by the Church 
to certain verses. His style is marked by clearness, com- 
pleteness, and conciseness. In his interpretation and 

90 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

definition, he built on the discoveries of his predecessors, 
and thus helped to give wider circulation to the conclu- 
sions of the earlier grammarians and exegetes, as much 
as he did to the grammatical system of his father, Jo- 
seph ben Isaac. To indicate the esteem in which Ee- 
dak was held, we need but refer to the application made 
to him of the verse in the Chapters of the Fathers, read- 
ing, " Where there is no Kemach (literally meaning- 
meal, or flour) there is no knowledge of the law ^' which 
was twisted in spelling so as to admit of the rendering, 
" Where there is no Kimchi, there is no law/^ Eedak is 
the Ibn Ezra of France, in that he believed that the 
sense of Scriptures must be based upon an examination 
of grammatical forms and the emphasis of the natural 

The consideration of the following passage found in 
his commentary of the Prophets, conveys a clear con- 
ception of his method. He remarks, " I desire to inter- 
pret verses of Scriptures according to their needs, and 
shall explain words where explanation is necessary. I 
shall interpret the text with reference to the Qere and 
the Kethibh, so far as I am able. It appears that these 
differences in the reading and the wTiting of tlie text 
came into existence in this wise: The books were lost 
during the Exile, the experts died, and the men of the 
Great Synagogue, who endeavored to restore the Torah 
to its former dignity, discovering differences in the 
reading, always decided on the basis of the majority of 
existing testimonies. Where these men of the Great 
Synagogue were in doubt, they wrote the word into the 
text, but did not point it, placing the proper pointing 
into the margin ; or wrote only into the margin but not 

Ibn Ezra and the Kimchis 91 

into the text; or, again, wrote one reading into the text 
and the variant into the margin." 

The two men Ibn Ezra and Kimclii, working along 
similar lines and according to similar methods, were 
not only the links that bound together the Moorish and 
Christian civilizations during the Eleventh and Twelfth 
Centuries, but they also contributed, each in his own 
country, to the promotion of that science, which the Jew 
considered of prime importance, in the proper under- 
standing of that work or that literature, on which the 
faiths of Christian Europe were founded. The products 
of their pen, like the commentary of Rashi upon the 
Bible, and probably more than the commentary of 
Eashi, are the sources from which the scholars of all 
ages succeeding theirs, drew the inspiration which gave 
their conclusions the stamp of truth. 


Maimonides and Nachmaxides 

Self-defense and adjustment have been the alter- 
nating and oft coincidental tasks of religion, ever since 
religion first attempted to explain the mystery of the 
universe and life. Skeptics and doubters, who ques- 
tioned the value of its services in the construction of 
civilization, had to be answered, not because their 
charges were true, but because of the fear that many 
persons, easily deluded, might have their faith in re- 
ligion shaken. The discovery of new truths on the 
part of constantly thinking humanity, had to be reck- 
oned with, not because there was a real conflict between 
science and religion, but because religion felt that it 
had to keep pace with the evolution of knowledge. Had 
such not been the conduct of religion in the many pe- 
riods of the world's history, religion would not be vocal 
with inspiring messages to society, in these days of 
ours, when every factor of civilization is tested by the 
law of evolution. 

Among the faiths which have come into and gone out 
of existence, none has been compelled to defend and re- 
adjust itself as frequently as did the faith of Israel. 
"Tribe of the wandering foot," as Israel has been, it 
came in contact with the earlier forms of culture which 
the Orient sponsored, and with the later phases of spec- 
ulation expounded by Occidental peoples. Thus it hap- 
pens that from the moment Israel became dispersed, it 

96 Jewish Biblical Commentatoks 

turned religious philosopher, at one time asserting tlie 
superiority of its theory of life, at another demon- 
strating the harmony between it and other systems of 
thought, and frequently availing itself of the light fur- 
nished by philosophies of a newer day. 

During the sojourn of the Jew in Spain, radiant with 
a Moorish cultural complexion, the Jew felt called upon 
to devote himself to the task of subjecting his belief to 
careful analysis. Whereas his imagination indulged in 
poetic flights, his reason delved into profoundcst 
thought. He could not escape the latter. Two schools 
of philosophy attracted marked attention, and won for 
themselves numerous eager students, and indefatigable 
expounders. The philosophy of Aristotle had met with 
revival, and the thought of the Motekallemin, an Arabic 
sect, was being proclaimed. Spain and all its people, ir- 
respective of their religious traditions, promised to be 
Greecized on the one hand, by the theory of the eternity 
of the Universe and Mohammedanized on the other by 
the theory of God's existence, incorporeality and unity, 
together with the '^ Creatio ex Nihilo '' doctrine. The 
Jew could not and would not ignore these tw^o systems. 
He felt called upon to search them carefully, contrast 
their teachings with his, and explain whether or not his 
religion, originally built on Scriptural doctrine, was, or 
was not found wanting, when weighed in the then ap- 
plied philosophical balance. 

No man of average attainments could undertake this 
examination. A man fitted for the work by natural en- 
dowments and acquired erudition, the Spanish Jews pos- 
sessed in Moses Maimonides. Tf he had not been a 
master in the written and oral laws, in Biblical and 

Mai.momdks and Xachmanides 97 

Rabbinical disciplines, he could never have proved him- 
self equal to the emeriieiicy. Profound pliilosopher that 
he was, it is not particularly as such that he is of interest 
at present, but. rather as Biblical exegete, who, in the 
writings he has left to posterity, has handed down many 
valuable philosophical conclusions, illuminating the 
sense of Scriptures. Maimonides' fuller name was 
Moses ben ^laimon. In Arabic literature he is known 
as " Abu Imran Musa ben Maimun Ibn Abd Allah." 
Among Jews he is called "Rambam," a term consisting 
of the initials of his name. Rabbi Moses ben Maimon. 

He saw the light of day first at Cordova, in 1135, 
and died at Cairo, Egypt, 1204. The years, lying be- 
tween his birth and death, were characterized by a ca- 
reer which has many a touch of the romantic. The 
foundation of his scholarship was laid by his father who 
was himself a man of profound erudition, and by some 
of the most celebrated Arabic lights of his country and 
time. When he was thirteen yeas of age, Cordova was 
conquered by the Almohades, who gave the Jews the 
choice between the embrace of Islam and exile. The 
^laimon family wandered about from place to place for 
many years, until in 1160, they took up their residence 
in Fez, hoping not to have their religion discovered. 
However, owing to his ever-increasing prominence, and 
the consequent discovery of his faith, Maimonides would 
have been executed, if it had not been for the interven- 
tion of a celebrated Mohammedan literary friend. This 
experience led him to realize that he had to seek shelter 
elsewhere, settling finally in Fostat (Cairo). Losing his 
father, and subsequently his brother David, ^Faimoni- 
des, who had during his entire life devoted himself to 

98 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

the study and exposition of the law, now began to earn 
his own livelihood bv the practice of medicine. He was 
so successful a physician that tlie attention of Saladin's 
Vizier was directed to Jiini, who, in turn recommended 
him to the royal family, with the result that he became 
physician to the Court, a position which, according to 
Arabic accounts, was also offered to him in the court of 
Richard the First. The strenuosity of his life, which 
his dual position as physician to the Court, and as re- 
ligious head of the Cairo community entailed, is stated 
by him in a letter written in 1199 to his friend and the 
translator of his works. Rabbi Samuel Tbn Tibbon. Says 
Maimonides in his letter: 

" With respect to your wish to come here to me, I 
cannot but say how greatly your visit would delight me: 
for T truly long to communicate with you, and would 
anticipate our meeting with even greater joy than 
you. Yet I must advise you not to expose yourself 
to the perils of the voyage, for beyond seeing me and 
my doing all T could to honor you, you would not de- 
rive any advantage from your visit. Do not. expect to 
be able to confer with me on any scientific subject for 
even one hour, either by day or night; for the following 
is my daily occupation: I dwell in Mizr (Fostat) and 
the Sultan resides at Kahira (Cairo). These two places 
are two Sabbath days' journeys (about one mile and a 
half distant from each other). My duties to the Sultan 
are very heavy. I am obliged to visit him every day, 
early in the morning, and when he or any of his children, 
or any of the inmates of his harem are indisposed, I 
dare not quit Kahira, but must stay during the greater 
part of the day in the palace. It also frequently happens 

Mai.momuks and Nachmaxides 'J9 

that one or two of the otlicors fall sick, and I must at- 
tend to their healing; hence, as a rule, 1 repair to 
Kahira verv early in the day. and even if nothing un- 
usual happens, T do not return to Mizr until the after- 
noon. Then I am almost dying with hunger. I find 
the ante-chambers filled with people, both Jews and 
Ctentiles, nobles and common people, judges and bail- 
iffs, friends and foes (a mixed multitude) who await 
the time of my return. I dismount from my animal, 
wash my hands, go forth to my patients, and entreat 
them to bear with me while I partake of some slight 
refreshment, the only meal I take in the twenty-four 
hours. Then I go forth to attend to my patients, write 
prescriptions and directions for their several ailments. 
Patients go in and out until nightfall, and sometimes 
even, T solemnly assure you, until two hours and more 
in the night. T converse with them and prescribe for 
them, while lying down from sheer fatigue ; and when 
night falls, I am so exhausted that T can scarcely speak. 
In consequence of this, no Israelite can have any pri- 
vate interview with me, exccf't on the Sabbath. On that 
day the whole congregation, or at least a majority of 
the members come to me after the morning service, when 
I instruct them as to their proceedings during the whole 
week, we study together a little until noon, when they 
depart. Some of them return and read with me after 
the afternoon service, until evening prayers. In this 
manner I spend that day. I have related to you only a 
part of what you would see if you were to visit me."" 

The most important works which have come down to 
us from this great teacher of the Middle Ages — in fact 
such is the case with all his literary productions — seem 

lf)0 Jewish Biblical Com.mkntators 

to have been produced in their succession, in conse- 
(|iience of the thou^^lit changes which were then taking 
place in ]\Iedieval Europe. Attracted as he was by the 
philosophical disciplines of his time, he did not state 
the attitude of the Jew towards them, without first 
analyzing and summarizing carefully for himself and 
his contemporaries, the fundamental concepts and the 
accumulated traditions of Israel. Thus it happens that 
at the early age of twenty-three, he began a commentary 
on the ^lishnah, known by the Arabic name "Sirag " 
literally " illumination." His object was to simplify for 
the beginner, the study of the Talmud. He takes up 
every Mishnah separately, furnishes an explanation for 
it, and gives the result of the discussion carried on by 
the Gemarah, with the Mishnah as a basis. It was writ- 
ten in Arabic in order to make it accessible to Arabic 
speaking people, although later in life he regretted the 
fact that he had not written it in Hebrew. For its He- 
brew rendition, Charisi, Joseph Ben Isaac Ibn Alfual, 
and Jacob Abbassi were responsible, each contributing 
a part. 

A second work of Maimonides, theological, ethical and 
liturgical in character, is his " Yad Chazaqah " literally 
" the strong hand " written in Hebrew. As indicated by 
the numerical value of the term, " Yad," it consists of 
fourteen parts, and presents m systematic form, accord- 
ing to subject matter, Talmudical teachings and laws. 
This work, in fact, is a code treating the institutions of 
Judaism on the basis of Bildical, Talmudical, and post- 
Talmud i(^al literature. In the first part we have the 
concepts about God, the teachings with regard to the 
study of the law, and injunctions concerning idolatry; 

Maimoxidks and XaCII-MAMDKS 101 

ill tlic riecond the love due tu liod; in the third, la\V!^ 
witli regard to Sabbaths and lioliday.s; in the loiirlh, 
hiws concerning marriage; in the lil'tii, forbidden mar- 
riages and food; in the sixth, vows and oaths; in the 
seventh, regulations concerning agriculture; in the 
eighth, the divine service; n\ the ninth, offerings; in 
the tenth, rules of cleanliness; in the eleventh, the crimi- 
nal law; in the twelfth, laws of purchase and sale; in 
the thirteenth, the civil law; and in the fourteenth, 
regulations governing courts, judges and kings. 

The principal work of Maimonides was his " More 
Xebuchini " — " The Guide of the Perplexed." It was 
written in Arabic, and is known by the name " Dalalat 
Al-Hairin." Its first translation into Hebrew was made 
Ijv Samuel Ibn Til)bon, and almost simultaneously with 
him, Jehudah Al C'harizi ako produced a Hebrew ren- 
dition of the original. In "The Guide of the Per- 
plexed," Maimonides defines the attitude of Judaism 
towards the prevailing philosophies of the times, and 
establishes harmony between the Bible and Aristotele- 
anism. Its object is stated best by himself in his intro- 
duction, when he says : 

" I have written this work neither for the common 
people nor for beginners, nor for those who occupy them- 
selves only with the law as it is handed down, without 
concerning themselves with its principles. The design 
of this work is rather to promote the understanding of 
the real spirit of the law, to guide those religious per- 
sons, who, adhering to tlie Torah, have studied philoso- 
phy and are embarrassed by tlie contradiction between 
the teachings of philosophy, and the literal sense of the 

102 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

It is divided into three parts. The ilrst part treats of 
the attributes ol* the Deity, which are preceded by the 
consideration of homonyms and synonyms. Tlie point 
liere made by him is, that terms used with reference to 
God, whicli are applicable to man, are used only anthro- 
pomorphistically. The first part closes with an analysis 
of the principles of the Motekallemin. The second part 
treats of the essence of the " First Cause " and the 
theory of Aristotle as agreeing in many points with tlie 
teacliings of Scriptures, of angels, the planets, crea- 
tion, prophecy, and prophetical visions. The third part 
treats of the visions of Ezekiel, of the various kinds of 
evil, trials, temptations, and the reasons for the giving 
of the Biblical precepts. It is in this work that i\Iai- 
monides formulated for the first time in the history of 
Jews, articles of creed, which are, in his case, thirteen 
in number^ as reflected in the " Yigdal " one of the 
hymns still in existence in the ritual of the Synagogue. 

In addition to the works already mentioned, there 
are a number of minor literary productions. They are 
the " Sefer Hamizvoth "— " The Book of the Command- 
ments " ; the " Iggereth Hashemad " ; a treatise on apos- 
tacy from Judaism, and on martyrdom; and the "Ig- 
gereth Teman," a treatise on the Messianic hope. 

As in the case of many other Jewish writers, who 
have rendered valuable service to Biblical exegesis, the 
opinions of Moses Maimonides on the intent of Scrip- 
tures are not to be found in any one book or work, de- 
voted to Biblical interpretation as such, but are scat- 
tered through his writings, and are not any the less 
valuable on this account. 

As epoch-making as Maimonides was in the realm of 

Maimonides and Naciimanides 103 

religious philosophy, so epoch-making he was also in 
the province oi' Biblical exegesis. 'J'his I'act must needs 
be self-evident, in view of hi.-; employment of philosopJiy 
in the interpretation of the Scriptures. If there is one 
word which characterizes his exegesis, it is the term, 
" rationalistic." His attitude towards tradition was 
very much the same as that of Ibn Ezra, in that he took 
account only of the contents of the traditional interpre-* 
ration, but did not look upon it as a final authority. The 
Aggada received his attention only as a stage in tiie 
gradual development, making for the thorough under- 
standing of the Bible. With him, Bible and science 
were not in conflict with one another. Xor did he con- 
cern himself merely with the literary study of Scrip- 
tures. In his estimation, Hebrew grammar and rhetoric 
constituted the stones, and philosophy the mortar which 
had to be used in the construction of an enduring exe- 
gesis. Whatever some of his critics may say to the con- 
trarv, it cannot be denied that the rimd svstem of Mai- 
monides made clear, in numerous instances, the mean- 
ing of many a Scriptural passage and expression, which 
for others remained shrouded in obscurity. To show 
liis rationalism let us call attention to the following: 

The Pentateuch is, in his opinion, a book illuminating 
many mysteries. The prophetical writings are to him 
indicative of a marked genius possessed by their authors; 
and the Hagiographa testify to an intellectual superi- 
ority, with which their authors were gifted. With re- 
gard to Canticles he holds, that it consists of poetical 
allegories. Concerning Koheleth, he states, that it con- 
tains many non-religious elements. And of Job he as- 
serts that it is a ])arable, the object of which is to por- 
trav the theories of man on the wavs of Providence, 

101 Jewish Biblical Commektatohs 

Since he re-echoes the Tahniidical saying, " The 
Torah speaks in the language of man," it is but natural 
that « he should father the doctrine, that when human 
organs, powers and feelings are ascribed to God by the 
Scriptures, such expressions must be understood meta- 
phorically, and not literally. He is, in this particular, 
therefore, in very close sympathy with the interpreta- 
•tions of the Targumim. For the purpose of showing 
the metaphorical use of such Biblical expressions, he 
explains the difference of connotation between the syno- 
nyms " Toar," " Zelem," " Demuth " (form or like- 
ness) ; also the difference between " Tabhnith " and " Te- 
munah " (form, likeness), and between verbs such as 
"Eaah," " Ilibit " and ''^ Chazah " (to see); between 
'• Qarabh," " Xaga " and " Xagash " (to touch, to ap- 
proacli) ; between " Bara," " Asah " and " Yazar " (to 
create, make, form) ; between " Ahabh " and " Chashaq " 
(to love). 

The same end is subserved by his explanation of such 
homonyms as " Elohim " (God), "Adam" (man), 
"Ish" (man), " Panim " (face). " Achor " (back), 
"Kegel" (foot), " Ayin " (eye), " Lebh " (heart), 
" Xef esh " ( soul ) , " Ruach " ( spirit ) , " Maqom " 
(place), etc.; and by the explanation of such 
verbs as " Alah " (to go up) and " Yarad," (to go 
down), "Halakh" (to go), " Ba " (to come), " Yaza " 
(to go out), "Yashabh" (to sit), " Qum " (to stand), 
etc., when applied to God. His interpretations of the 
various appellatives for the Deity are of interest. The 
name " Eheyeh " he derives from " Hayah " (to be). 
" Adonay " is derived from " Adon " meaning " Lord." 
" Elohim " is a term indicating an attribute of the 

Maimoxidks and Xaciiman'ides 105 

Deity, like '' licU'liuiii," etc. lie believes in angels as 
s})iritual beings, mediating between Ciod and man. His 
presentation of })ropheev is ol* moment, lie holds that 
the pro})lietie taeulty is natural to man, but that man 
may be prevented from prophesying, by Divine interven- 
tion. Prophets are, by him, said to dillVr in degree of 
prophetical power. The prophet receives his message 
through either a dream, vision or an angel. Moses is 
the prophet of prophets. He alone saw God face to 
face. On Genesis 1, he states that the creation story is 
not to l)e taken literally, and asserts that he discovers 
in it tlie teachings of Aristotelean physics and meta- 
physics, as he does in Ezekiel 1. 

The sources ]\[aimonides consulted were the gram- 
marians Abulwalid and Cliayyug, the translator Saadia, 
and the Biblical exegete Abraham Ibn Ezra. The Bib- 
lical exegetes of the Church were also not unknown to 
him, and are quoted repeatedly. 

So liighly esteemed was tDe service Maimonides ren- 
dered to the Jewish cause, that the saying came into 
vogne, " From ]\[oses unto Moses tliere arose none like 
Moses"; which meant to convey the idea, that from 
Moses, the law-giver in Israel, to Moses Maimonides. 
the philosopher, none arose like either Moses. 

Whereas there were many, in the days of Maimonides, 
who were willing to endorse this eulogistic estimate of 
l^ambam, it cannot be said that he had naught but ad- 
mirers. It must be remembered that his philosophy 
and exegesis were a new departure, and as such, were 
calculated to meet with opposition. The Biblical schol- 
ars of his time, and of the centuries immediately suc- 
ceeding his, ranged themoclves. therefore, into two 

106 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

hostile camps. The Talniudists objected to his explana- 
tion of anthropomorjiliisms, employed in the Bible. 
]\lidrashim and Talmud, and to his high regard of 
philosophy. Among his opponents were Babbi Abraham 
Ben David of Posquieres, known as " Eabhad/' who at- 
tacked Maimonides' " Yad Chazaqah " on the grounds, 
that he wrote in a Hebrew different froui the Talmudic 
idiom; that he departed from the Talmudic arrange- 
ment of subjects; and that he failed to state the sources 
of some of his opinions. Maimonides defended hiuiself 
against Eabhad's attack, by stating that the brevity and 
the dialect he employed in the presentation of his sub- 
ject, would make the work more welcome to tlie student. 
Another opponent was Rablji Meir Halevi Abulafia, 
head of the school in Toledo. A third was Rabbi Solo- 
mon Ben Abraham of ^lontpellier, and a fourth was 
Judah Ben Joseph Alfacher of Toledo. So intense was 
the opposition on the part of some scholars, against the 
theories of Maimonides, that the works of Maimonides 
were subsequently burned publicly, in the City of Paris, 
because regarded by strict Talmud ists, as heretical lit- 
erature. While the enemies of Maimonides were busy 
pointing out his heresies, his friends did not lose time 
to espouse his cause. Some of these were Samuel Ibn 
Til)bin, Al Charisi, Bedarshi, Ibn Kaspe, Ben Palquera. 
David Kimchi, and Nachmanides. 

To the last named of this coterie of men, we shall now 
devote special attention, in view of the importance he 
won for himself as a Biblical commentator. 

The fuller name of N'achmanides was Moses Ben 
Xachman Ciorondi. wliich was abbreviated into " Pam- 
ban." a title consistino- of the initials of his name. He 

Maimonides and Nachmanides 107 

was boni in Gurona, Spain, in llD-t, and died in Pales- 
tine, 1*^U). His family was one of the most illustrious 
among Spanish Jews. The critical faculty, of which 
he gave evidence early in life, was inherited by him from 
his father, who, himself, had reached to high rungs of 
scholarship. From his earliest youth he took for his 
ideal the great Talmudic authority, Alfazi. Apart from 
devoting himself to Biblicai and Talmudical research, 
which in his time constituted the provinces in which 
talented Jewish young men had to be trained, he studied 
medicine and philosophy, and in addition to mastering 
Spanish and Hebrew, was an expert in Arabic. He was 
thoroughly at home in the writings of Eashi, Ibn Ezra, 
and Maimonides, as evidenced by him in his works, on 
the one side, and in his defence of Maimonides on the 
other. History reports of him, that he took the leading 
part, on account of his extensive Jewish knowledge and 
wide communal influence, in a religious disputation, in 
the year 1263, at Barcelona. In the royal palace were 
assembled bishops and priests, men and women of the 
Court, knights, and leaders of the municipality. Into 
the presence of this august assemblage, Xachmanides 
w^as invited, to defend the teachings of Judaism, against 
the cliarges of the apostate Jew, Fra Paolo Christiani 
of ^fontpellier, a missionary to the Jews. The session 
lasted several days, at the end of which, Xachmanides 
chronicled his victory over an imprincipled apostate. 

As Xachmanides championed the cause of Maimonides 
against his enemies, so he took up the cause of Alfazi, 
against Sarachya Halevi and Abraham Ben David, who 
attacked Alfazi's Talmudic i)roductions. In the latter 
part of his life, Xachmanides was very anxious to visit 

108 Jkwisii Biblical Commentators 

Jerusalem, and undertook the journey in I'^O?. It is 
stated that the journey to the Holy Land was under- 
taken on account of his violation of the King's order to 
the effect, that the disputation, in which Nachmanides 
took part in Barcelona, was to remain unknown 
to the various communities. The place of his hurial 
is not definitely known. Some cUiim that his remains 
were intered at Kaifa, while others state that his burial 
took place in the City of Jerusalem. 

In addition to Talmudic works, he produced also lit- 
erature of a homilectical and ritualistic kind; as for 
example, his writings on the holiness and significance 
of marriage; on customs of mourning; on reward and 
punishment; and on kindred subjects. That he took 
quite an active part in the development of the Qabbalah 
is generally recognized. The work issuing from his 
pen, which interests us most, from the standpoint of our 
present specific study of him, is his commentary on the 
Pentateuch, usually found printed below the com- 
mentaries of Kashi and Ibn Ezra in the Miqraoth Gedo- 
loth, the large edition of the Hebrew Bible. Although 
a defender of ^Faimonides, Nachmanides was not as 
pronounced a rationalist as Maimonides. It is true, his 
commentary is marked by the Peshat, the natural sense, 
but through it runs a strong undercurrent of mysticism, 
which makes him the first of Biblical critics to introduce 
into the study of the Bible, the flavor of the Qabbalah. 
One of the points, in which he more particularly differs 
from Maimonides, is his belief in the miracles of the 
Bible; not saying, as did Maimonides, that they should 
be expounded in the light of natural phenomena, but 
holding that human affairs are miraculously controlled. 

Mai MoNiDKs AND Naciimamues lOii 

'Vhc introduction to the book of (Joncsis, written by 
Xaclinianides, declares his position with reference to 
Scriptures, and we shall, therefore, consider a few of its 
statements. Says Nachmanides: 

" ]\Ioses wrote the whole Torah ii|)on dictation from 

Ood The two tablets of stone contain the Ten 

Commandments, the term 'commandments' incliidin<,^ 

both commandments and prohibitions When 

Moses retnrned from Mt. Sinai, he wrote the first part 
of the Torah to the end of the account of the huilding 
of the Tabernacle, while the latter part was written by 
Closes at the end of the fortieth year of Israel's wander- 
ing through the desert Fifty avennes of com- 
prehension were created in the world, and Moses was 
denied only one of these, in acordance with Psalm 8:0: 
' Thon hast made him little less than God.' .... Know 
my answer to the question, why I have written my com- 
mentary as T did. T adhere to tlie methods of the 
ancients, and wish to encourage the study of Scriptures 
among people, on Sabbaths and holidays, inasmuch as 
I refresh the heart with the natural interpretation, and 
add to it, many an explanation of the hidden wisdom." 

In view of the fact that N'achmanides helped to cul- 
tivate the Qabbalah, he became, as his commentary 
shows, a severe critic of Ibn Ezra, the outspoken op- 
ponent to the Jewish Medieval mysticism. It is Pro- 
fessor Schechter, who says of Xachmanides, when con- 
trasting liim witli Maimonides, "If he was not a pro- 
found thinker like the author of the Guide of the Per- 
plexed, ho had that which is next best — he felt pro- 

Whereas Xachmanides did considerable to allav the 

110 Jewlsji Biblical Commentatous 

bitter feelings between Maimonists and anti-^Iaimonists, 
lie did not succeed in putting an end to the declarations 
previousl}' made, that Mainionides, with his writings, 
overthrew the foundations of Jewish belief. For several 
centuries, it was considered heretical to study the More 
Xebuchim. Only as the intellectual atmosphere was 
clarified by the growing strength of the rationalistic 
movement, was the work which ^faimonidcs rendered 
the cause of Biblical exegesis, by his harmonization be- 
tween Biblical and Aristotelean thought, appreciated as 
it deserved. 


Mendelssohn and the Biurists 

History reveals some queer phenomena. The progress 
it chronicles in the civilization of mankind, is shown to 
be far from constant. In many instances, humanity 
appears to find it impossible to make many strides for- 
ward, without first stepping back a short distance. This 
observation holds good both in the case of universal 
histor}^ and in the annals of separate peoples. The 
story of the Jew is no exception to the rule. Often, 
when a tidal wave of expansion and growth gives prom- 
ise of its uninterrupted, aye even perpetual flow, the ebb 
sets in, and prevents, for many cycling years, the re- 
sumption of activity, calculated to event in a broader 

The death of Maimonides may be said to mark one 
of the turning points in the development of the world's 
Jewry, not because of the hostile attitude assumed by his 
opponents, toward his philosophy, but because of the 
unfavorable conditions which dawned for Jews, almost 
everywhere on the European Continent. Proscriptions 
and persecutions constituted the lot of Israel. The 
Christian Church completely possessed by the desire to 
Christianize the world, was bent upon exterminating 
the synagogue. Living amid such harrassing environ- 
ment in every European country, the Jew could hardly 
be expected to continue, for any great length of time, 
his cultivation of religious philosophy and of scientific 

114 Jewish Biblual Commentators 

exegesis. With the exception of some minor philosoph- 
ical treatises, Levi Ben Gerson's " Milchamoth Adonay " 
— " Battles of the Lord " (written in the first half of 
tlic Fourteenth Centurv), and Joseph Albo's " Iqqarim " 
— "Fundamental Principles" (produced in the Fif- 
teenth Century), constituted the only important con- 
tributions to religious philosophy, since the creation of 
the " More Xebuchim." 

The peculiar kinds of literature, offsprings of op- 
pression and persecution the Jews suffered in the middle 
ages, are poetry, Qabbalism, history, apologetics, and 
legal codes. The poetry reflected the sorrows and hopes 
of an outraged people, and found its way into the ritual 
of the synagogue. The Qabbalism monumentalized 
mystical speculations about God, His relation to the 
universe, and the relation of the universe to Him; the 
series of created worlds, and the secret of their emana- 
tions, the reciprocal influence of worlds on one another, 
the occult significance of the names of the Deity, the 
existence of angels and demons, and the nature of the 
world to come. History treats of the description of 
separate communities, their trials and tribulations. 
Apologetics concerns itself with the explanation of Jew- 
ish loyalty and the defense against tlie unjust charges 
made against Jews, either by Christian theologians or 
Jewish apostates. The legal codes, such as the " Turim " 
and the " Schulchan Arukh," summarized the Biblical 
and rabbinical rules and regulations to be followed by 
the Jew, in the government of his conduct. Every 
literary effort was expended in the production of such 
works, which helped to familiarize Jews with ritualistic 
enactments, to promote ecclesiastical unity and solidar- 

Mendelssohn and the Biurists 115 

ity, despite their world-wide dispersion, and to rescue 
tliem from a carefully planned annihilation. 

It was in consequence of this peculiar status of the 
Jews of the Middle Ages, that the science of Biblical 
criticism was allowed to remain for centuries, fallow 
ground among them. We do not mean to convey l)y 
this statement, the idea, that no one ever endeavored 
to explain the meaning of a Biblical passage. Biblical 
interpretations are indeed to be found in nine out of 
every ten works, produced amid the ^lediacval persecu- 
tions, but these interpretations are given only incident- 
all v, as they were employed to cite Biblical foundation 
for some hope entertained, for some defense set up, for 
some legal enactment formulated, and for some. theory 
advocated. Xor do we wish to ignore the commentaries 
on Tsaiah and Ezekiel by Moses Ben Shesheth, living in 
Babylonia in the Thirteenth Century: that of Eleazar 
Ashkenasi on the Pentateuch, living in the Fourteenth 
Century; that of Nethanel Ben Tsaiah on the Penta- 
teuch, living at the same time; and those of Bachya 
Ben Ascher, Nathan Ben Samuel, Asher Ben Jechiel, 
Samuel Ben Xissim, Simon Ben Zemach Duran, Nissim 
Ben Closes, Eleazer Ben Jehudah of Worms, Don Isaac 
Abarbanel, and others. The point, however, that we 
do desire to make, is this — that until the Eighteenth 
Century, no epoch-making work in Biblical exegesis 
came into existence, with the exception of the " Tracta- 
tus Theologico-Politicus " of Benedict Spinoza, the 
Dutch philosopher, who, altiiough excomunicated from 
the synagogue, by the Amsterdam rabbinate, may never- 
theless be regarded a link in the chain of Jewish Biblical 
interpreters, not simply because he was born a Jew, but 

11 (J J j:\vlsii Biblical Commlntatoks 

because liis rationalism was influenced, in great measure, 
by the exegesis of Maimonides. 

That it was no easy task to lead the Jew again to the 
study of tlie Bible, in accordance with its natural mean- 
ing, requires no detailed demonstration. The night, 
through which the Jew had passed, had lasted so long, 
that some of his intellectual powers, more particularly 
those bespeaking careful analysis and investigation, had 
been completely lulled to sleep. For the Christian 
world, the Middle Ages had come to an end, with the 
opening of the Eighteenth Century, l)ut for the Jew 
they were not yet to be succeeded by tlie much to l)e de- 
sired Renaissance. In almost every country of Europe, 
he was doomed to associate only with his own, to live 
in tlie Ghettos, and to pursue vocations defined for him 
by law. He was thus naturally denied that intellectual 
broadening, which would have been his, in consequence 
of the intercourse with people who looked at the problems 
of life and the mysteries of the universe, from view 
points different than his own. The only mental exercise, 
in which the Jew was therefore in position to indulge, 
was that which came with the study of the rabbinical 
law. And luckily for him, that he was at least per- 
mitted to study his legal codes. It rescued him from 
complete mental decay. What wonder, however, that 
in the face of the discriminations made against him, the 
Jew soon learned to prefer the narrow environment, both 
physical and intellectual, into which he had been origin- 
ally forced by the orders of kings, and the edicts of 
ecclesiastics. While virtually all over Europe, the con- 
dition of tlie Jew was equally distressing, the step for 
his improvement was taken in Germany. Germany was 

Mhxdhlssoiin axu tiik BinusTS 117 

gradually gaining tlic ascendoucy in culture, on the 
European Continent, and while its Jews spoke the Jew- 
ish German jargon, that jargon, because so pronouncedly 
German in character, furnished the Jews with the key 
to tlie understanding of the sciences and the arts the 
Germans cultivated. And when once the Jews had 
gazed beyond tlie narrow circle of their Talmudical en- 
vironment, they soon began to develop again the study 
of the Bible, from the rationalistic point of view, in ad- 
dition to familiarizing themselves with the truths and 
discoveries called into life by the rationalism of tlie 
newer day. 

Many a man, of course, contributed his share to the 
modernization of the Jew, but the greatest part of the 
work certainly, must be ascribed to Moses Mendelssohn. 
Closes Mendelssohn was born at Dessau, Germany, Sept. 
(), 1129, and died at Berlin, Jan. 4, 1786. He was the 
son of a scribe, who engaged in the copying of Torah 
manuscripts for a living. Mendelssohn's first teacher 
was his father, and his later instructor was David 
Frankel, the Kabbi of his native town. 

When, in 1743, Frankel was called as Eabbi to Berlin, 
Mendelssohn, broken-hearted because of separation from 
his teacher, determined to follow him to the capitol of 
Germany. He arrived there a poor and friendless boy, 
but soon, by virtue of his powers and affability, formed 
the acquaintance of men, who gladly assisted him in his 
further education. Israel Samoscz initiated him into 
the mysteries of mathematics, and gave him instruction 
in the Jewish philosophy of the Middle Ages. Dr. 
Gumpertz taught him German literature, and the French 
and English language; and Dr. Xisch was responsible 

118 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

i'ur liis Latin kuowlodgc. While subsequeutly occupying 
the position as tutor in the family of a silk manufac- 
turer, Isaac Bernhard, and a little later that of his 
bookkeeper, Mendelssohn studied the works of the Greek 
philosophers and those of Spinoza, Leibnitz, Locke and 
others. Of Lessing, the German literateur, he soon be- 
came an intimate friend. It is to this friendship, that 
Mendelssohn owed his mastery of the pure German, and 
his immortalization as Lessing's " Nathan the Wise." 
Mendelssohn's writings attracted the attention of the 
learned men of Berlin and other cities. Friedrich 
Nicolai invited him to become a collaborer in the 
" Bibliothek der Schonen Wissenschaften und der 
Freien Kiinste." Among others who became interested 
in him, w^ere the Crown Prince of Brunswick, the Count 
and Countess of Schaumburg-Lippe, Luise Ulrika of 
Sweden, and Johann Kaspar Lavater, a preacher of 
Ziirich, Switzerland. It was the last named, who tried 
to convert Mendelssohn to Christianity by sending Men- 
delssohn Charles Bonnet's investigation of the proofs 
for Christianity, with the request, or rather challenge, 
" either to refute the book publicly, or if he found it 
logical, to do what wisdom, love of truth and honor 
required, and what Socrates w^ould have done if he had 
read the work and found it irrefutable." Mendelssohn 
accepted the challenge, and proved that Bonnet's book 
did not succeed in converting him, and that his belief 
in the truths of his own religion, was unshakable. 

The debate, however, was not at an end. One brochure 
after another w^as written against Mendelssohn, to the 
most of which he replied. This controversy soon began 
to tell upon his health, so that he was eventually com- 

Mendelssohn and the Biurists 11!) 

polled to seek recreation at l*yniiont, where he formed 
the acquaintance ol* Herder, jiii acquaintance which soon 
developed into the warmest friendship. 

Mendelssohn's philosophical writings are many and 
various. Because of his '' Phaedon/' which is patterned 
after Plato's dialogue by th.e same name, and which 
treats of the immortality of the soul, he bears the name, 
" German Plato '' and sometimes also that of " German 
Socrates." lie wrote also extensively on literary prob- 
lems, from the critical standpoint. 

While his activities in the interest of Jews, for the 
]nirpose of gaining for them civil emancipation, which 
was still denied them in Europe, evidenced itself not 
only in marked personal propaganda, but also in valuable 
writings, and while his exposition of the Jewish faith 
was lucidly presented in his " Jerusalem," " Morgen- 
stunden " and his translatioa of Menasseh Ben Israel's 
" Pescue of tlie Jews," his constructive influence in be- 
half of Jewish thought, was exercised most tellingly 
by means of his Biblical researches. 

Mendelssohn felt that it was absolutely necessary for 
the German Jews to forget their jargon, and learn to 
speak the German language. He held that this was 
their duty not only as subjects of the Prussian govern- 
ment, but also as members of society, who should be 
eager to avail themselves of the culture of their time. 
He knew of no better way of bringing about this de- 
sired end, than by translating the Pentateuch, Psalms, 
and Song of Songs into German. The translations met 
with cordial welcome at the hands of the more en- 
lightened Jewish constituency, and also with opposi- 
tion, resulting in tlio pronouncing of a ban on his Pen- 

120 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

tateuch, at the hands of such men as llaphael Kohen 
of Altoona. 

The Pentateuch was finished in 1783. Although his 
opponents pointed to dangers into which Jews would 
run, by using a translation of parts of the Bible, in the 
vernacular of the land, these dangers were not realized. 
The Mendelssohn translations had the direct opposite 
effect. Apart from making Jews appreciative of the 
value of the broader Jewish culture, the Mendelssohn 
translations aroused within them an interest in the study 
of Hebrew grammar, which, during the long night of 
Medieval persecution, had been almost altogether neg- 
lected by them. 

A few extracts from Mendelssohn's introduction to 
his translations, will suffice to present a clear idea of 
the motives which actuated him to undertake the epoch- 
making work. 

Says Mendelssohn in his introduction to the Penta- 
teuch translation : 

"As long as the Israelites did not change their lan- 
guage, they were not in need of a translation of the 
Holy Scriptures. — When they came to Babylon, they 
were assimilated with the people, and the children for- 
got the mother tongue. — When Ezra and his followers 
noticed that the mother tongue had been forgotten by 
the great mass of the people, teachers translated the 
Scriptures into Aramaic. His object was to get the 
people to understand the Scriptures by means of trans- 
lation, and to get them to learn anew, the forgotten 
language. — When the Greeks gained the supremacy, the 
Aramaic was set aside. — Thus they forgot also the trans- 
lation which Ezra had ordered. — Aqila translated the 

Mendelssohn axd the Biurists 1?! 

Scriptures into Greek. — Aqila was, however, not the 
first CJreek transUitor. The Septiiagiiit, and other (jreek 
versions, were written before his. — In the year 'M)7, 
(1547), there appeared at Constantine, a Pentateiuli 
with Spanish and Greek translation." 

In the introduction to liis translation of tlie Psalms, 
lie asks the reader to forget for a sliort time, everytliing 
read in translations, expositions and paraphrases, and 
also to note, how, in many places, he, Mendelssohn, 
deviated from all his predecessors. He calls attention 
to the fact that changes were made by him, based on 
critical grounds. He acknowledges his indebtedness to 
Michaelis' translation, and to that of Professor Knapp, 
and to Lutlier, for the German diction. The critical 
attitude of Mendelssohn, is shown, for example, in his 
notes on Psalm 68, when he states that Psalm 68 could 
not have been written by David, firstly because the 
style is not Davidean, and secondly on account of the 
advice given to desist from war. 

With regard to Canticles he says in his introduction 
to liis translation, that Canticles is not all one poem, 
but a series of poems, sung by the shepherd and shep- 
herdess alternately. 

It w^as Mendelssohn, who, in giving a critique of 
Robert Lowth^s lectures on the sacred poetry of the 
Hebrews, made the valuable study of the illustrious 
Oxford scholar, accessible to the German speaking 
world. Says Mendelssohn in substance, by way of in- 
troduction to his criticism, " Although many have at- 
tempted to translate and explain Scriptures, few have 
taken the trouble to exhibit the sources of beauty greatly 
a fl mired by the masters of the Hebrew language. People 

122 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

are wout to take great care in the study of Homer and 
Virgil, but seldom do people try to master the funda- 
mental rules of Hebrew poetry. He that wishes to 
speak on Hebrew poetry, must know more than the 
grammar of the language. He must combine with his 
knowledge of the language its philosophy, and must 
know how to differentiate between the specific talents of 
different peoples. Lowth's treatise is surely such a 

Although Mendelssohn might have been justified in 
believing, that he rendered valuahle service in the better 
understanding of Scriptures, by making his transla- 
tion of the Pentateuch and the other books mentioned, 
he felt that the translation had to be supplemened by 
a commentary. The task of producing the commentary 
in question, was assigned to Solomon Dubno, who was 
born at the City of Dubno 1738, and who died at Ams- 
terdam 1813. Dubno had enjoyed the valuable instruc- 
tion which the schools of Galicia offered, and had won 
for himself fame, for a work on the Hebrew accents. 
However, Dubno did not finish the task. All that 
emanated from his pen was a commentary in Hebrew 
on the book of Genesis, on account of the fact that he 
became intimidated by the adverse criticisms of the 
reactionary party. At first Mendelssohn thought of 
finishing the commentary himself, but he realized the 
great difficulties which such a work entailed. He there- 
fore divided the task. He himself produced the com- 
mentary on Exodus. Leviticus was annotated by 
Xaphtali Herz Wessely, who was born in Hamburg, 
1725, and who died in 180.5. Wessely was especially 
fitted for this task, in view of his extensive acquaint- 

Mendelssohn and the Biurists 123 

aucc, not only witli the Hebrew grammar, but with all 
branches ol' knowledge which absorbed the attention oi' 
scholars in his day. The commentary on iSi umbers was 
the work of Aaron Jaroslav, who had been a teacher in 
the house oi' Mendelssohn, and afterwards resided at 
liemberg, at all times one of the most prominent Euro- 
pean Jewish centres. A part of Deuteronomy was 
delegated to Herz Homberg, a native of Austria, whose 
fame as a Talnmdist had spread into Germany, and 
whose reading of the current literature litted him for 
his contribution to Mendelssohn's Biblical commentary. 
The men, who are responsible for the Mendelssohnian 
commentary, entitled " Netibhoth Ha Shalom " — " The 
Paths of Peace,'' are known in history as the " Biurists " 
— '• The Interpreters." To this class of commentators 
belongs also, Joel Loewe, who was born in 17bO, and 
died in 1802, a man reputed for his profound gram- 
matical knowledge, and who, together with Aaron VVolf- 
sohn, edited the " Ha Meassef ." Into this category 
must be placed such men as Meir Obernik, the com- 
mentator on Joshua and Judges ; Samuel Detmold, who, 
together with Obernik, annotated Samuel ; Isaac Euchel, 
the commentator of Proverbs, and others. 

The commentary to Kaplan Eabe's translation of Ec- 
clesiastes was written by Mendelssohn himself. 

The Biblical exegesis of Mendelssohn and his col- 
laborers, as crystallized in his commentary on the Penta- 
teuch and on several other Biblical books, marks indeed 
a revolution in the attitude of Jews towards Scriptures. 
That revolution had for its purpose the reinstatement 
of the Peshat, or natural sense, into its former well- 
deserved recognition. ^lendelssohn and his followers 

124: J i:\visii Biblical Commentators 

studied with care, the interpretations given by Kaslii, 
Ibn Ezra, ^laiinonides and Xacliinanides, concealed for 
centuries from human ken, and combined wliat was 
valuable in them, with the conclusions based on the 
rationalism of the latter days of the Eighteenth and 
the earlier days of the Nineteenth Centuries, 
tlius creating a new school of exegesis. While the 
i^>iurists availed themselves of the information, yielded 
on the intent of Scriptures also by the leaders of the 
Protestant Chnrch, the fear entertained by their op- 
ponents that the Mendelssohnian interpretation would 
cease to have a Jewish flavor, was unfounded. It was 
^[edia^val mysticism that had invaded the study of the 
Bible, to which the Mendelssohnian exegetes dealt a 
fatal blow; but the genuine principles of Jewish the- 
ology not only did not suffer, but actually benefited by 
the much decried movement. The door to Biblical lore 
had once more been thrown open to admit the People 
of the Book to their rightful place. As Luther had 
been the father of the Christian Reformation, so Men- 
delssohn became the sponsor of the Jewish Keformation. 
Whether Mendelssohn was conscious of the rich 
harvest that crowned his sowing, may be doubtful. 
Suffice it to say that he sowed wisely and discreetly. 
He not only Germanized the German Jew, but also 
modernized the Jews all over the world. His researches 
found their way gradually, into all Jewish communities. 
He was the third Moses to have been born in the history 
of Israel, commissioned to undertake his people's re- 
demption, from the degrading and annihilating ob- 
scurantism. He was the forerunner, who, by his sincer- 
ity and honesty, his love of reason and truth, paved the 

Mendelssohn and tiii: Bukists 125 

way, not only for \hv Jew's political, Uiit also for tlic 
Jew's intellectual cniaiu'ipatioii, a prominent feature of 
which demonstrated itself in the hi^rher exegesis for 
which the age succeeding the Mendelssohnian became 



The Xineteenth Century Critics 

One of tlic most interesting chapters in the story of 
the Jews, from all points of view, is the one that covers 
the Xineteenth Centnrv. The hopes wliich ^fendelssohn 
had entertained, when he undertook to plead the cause 
of the Jew, before the Xon-Jewish world, and to trans- 
late the Bible into German, for the benefit of German 
Jewry, began to be realized, if not in fullest, at least 
in partial measure, shortly after his death. Had he 
been spared to round out a century, the sorrow he would 
have experienced upon beholding members of his own 
family forsaking the religion of their fathers, would 
certainly have been mitigated l)y tliat delight whidi 
would have been his, on witnessing tlie removal of civil 
disabilities from his people. Although the Jew was not 
declared to be entitled to the same privileges as subjects 
of other persuasions enjoyed in the European countries, 
and periods of Jewish recognition were time and again 
followed l)y periods of Jewish repression, tlio lot of the 
Jew was undou1)tedly more endurable in tlie 1)eginning 
of the Xineteenth Century in Germany, than it had 
l)een for centuries, all over the European Continent. 
Apart from the lilieralism manifested by leading intel- 
lectuals, which virtue in them was the flower of their 
scientific thinking, several events co-o]iornted in better- 
ing the condition of Jews in Germany. Tn ITST, ^Tira- 
beau published his work on " ^fendelssohn and the Pol- 

130 Jewish Biblical CoiMMlntatuks 

itical Keforiu of Jews." In 1791 the French National 
Assembly granted full civil rights to people oL' the 
Jewish faith. In lv9(), the Batavian National Assembly 
granted Jews citizenship. In 1807, Napoleon the First, 
convened the celebrated Great Synhedrion of French 

What happened outside of Germany was sure to re- 
act upon Germany itself. The agitation carried on in 
other countries was soon taken up by the German Gov- 
ernment. The Government found, that its Jewish sub- 
jects, with the permission granted them to leave the 
Ghettos and the narrow mental disciplines for which 
the Ghetto was responsible, gave promise of being no 
less German in nationality, than the Germans of other 
faiths. The Jewish jargon had been, by many Jews, 
exchanged for the purer language of the land. The 
conviction became general, that given the opportunities, 
the Jew would become a valuable contributor to the 
sum total of Germany's material and intellectual wel- 
fare. In one province after another, emancipation, with 
its implied rights, was granted them. In 1808, West- 
phalia and Baden removed Jewish disabilities. In 
1811, Hamburg followed in the wake. In 1812, Meck- 
lenburg and Prussia did the same. And in time, other 
provinces emancipated their Jewish subjects. 

Whatever the value of the various privileges granted 
by the emancipation acts may have been to the Jews 
of Germany, not one compares in point of blessedness 
with the opening of the doors of the German g}'mna- 
siums and universities to Jevrish students. Attendance 
at the higher seats of learning had been denied Jews, 
until the close of the first decade of the Nineteenth 

The Nineteenth CEXTinv ('ihtics i:;i 

Centurv, Tlie introduction of the use of tlic piiro 
German bv Mendelssohn, liad served Jews as a i>ood 
foundation, on whicli to build the knowledge of the 
sciences now offered tliem. No sooner had thev become 
acquainted with tlie sciences and the philosophies, tanght 
at the higher academical institutions, but they 
began to apply modern scientiHc and philosophical 
methods in the prosecution of their religious studies. 
It was felt, that religion and everything pertaining to 
it. should be subjected to the same sort of analysis as 
all other disciplines. The prevailing attitude assumed 
towards the Bible, therefore, was sure to undergo a de- 
cided change. While characteristically Jewish, and 
based on conclusions of the rationalistic interpreters of 
the Middle Ages, the attitude towards the Scriptures 
was, in great measure, defined by the philosophy of the 
day. The character of the Biblical exegesis championed 
by the Jewish scholars of these times, may be said to 
have been an almost unanimous desire to accentuate the 
Peshat, the natural sense of Scriptures. The means 
employed were the scientific treatises, in German, on 
the history, text and purposes of the Bible as a whole, 
or its separate books, for the benefit of specialists, and 
the translations of Scriptures, with running com- 
mentaries in the Vernacular of the country, for the use 
of the laity. Tt was felt, that these means were neces- 
sary, in view of the obtaining ignorance in supposedly 
learned circles, with reference to the history of the Bible, 
and in view of the gradual loss of the knowledge of 
pure Hebrew, on the part of the people. 

The first man to claim our attention as valuable con- 
tributor to the better understanding of the meaninfr of 

132 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

Scriptures, is Leopold Zunz. He was the first, not 
only in point of time, but also in point of service and 
influence, so that he is today known as the father of 
that niovenient which has been designated by the name 
" Wissenschaft des Judenthums " — " the science of 

Leopold Zunz was born at Detmold, August 10, 1794, 
and died in 188G. He was bereft of his parents in his 
early youth, and received his rearing in an institution 
at Wolfenbiittel, where he became the intimate friend 
of a fellow student. Isaac Marcus Jost, the celebrated 
historian. It was, however, not long before he found 
his way into the gymnasium at Brunswick, where he 
received the foundation for that extensive classical train- 
ing, which served him in such excellent stead, in the 
literary career in winning for him his enviable fame. 
In view of the temporary denial of university advantages, 
which the Jews of Germany were once more called upon 
to suffer. Zunz turned preacher of a small Berlin con- 
gregation worshipping in the private house of Jacob 
Herz Beer. He did not continue very long in that 
capacity, for in 1823 the royal edict forbade the delivery 
of sermons in the vernacular, and all other innovations 
in the ritual of the German Synagogue. Zunz there- 
fore turned his attention to the larger congregation, 
consisting of Jews and non-Jews, whose constituents 
were to be found among people interested in the scientific 
presentation of historical. Biblical, and religious prob- 
lems. In 1819, we find him establishing a society for 
Jewish culture and science, together with Edward Gans 
and Moses Closer. The object of this organization was 
to bring about the religious culture of Jewry, along 


iiiodcni scientific liiu-s. To carry out its lofty uiiii, a 
journal lor the promotion of the science of Judaism, 
was puhlished under the supervision of Zunz; hut un- 
fortunately, only thrcH) numbers of that journal ap- 
])eare(l, owin^i' to the financial embarrassment of the 
ventui-e. Although the journal was discontinued, it 
had engendered an a})preciation for the science of Juda- 
ism, which could not he checked in its growth, but con- 
tinued to unfold from strength to strength, in the course 
of the succeeding years. 'J'he liberty of thought, which 
Zunz had won for the people, was now considered a 
conditio sine qua non. not only of the people's true 
culture, hut also of their complete happiness. Like 
Zunz himself, the people recognized the natural rela- 
tionship between the cultivation of Jewish science and 
the enjoyment of civil emancipation. Zunz now acted 
in the capacity of political editor for Spener's Journal. 
From 1825 to 1829 he was in charge of a Jewish school, 
and subsequently acted as preacher in tlie City of 
Prague. From 1839 to 1849, he was on the directorate 
of the Jewish Teachers' Seminary in Berlin. 

One of the most important critical works, of w^hich 
we are in possession, from the pen of Zunz, is his essay 
on Eashi, which served as model for all future disserta- 
tions of its kind. The " Gottesdienstlichen Yortrage 
der Juden," the " Synagogale Poesie des Mi ttel alters,'' 
" Pitus des Synagogalen Gottesdienstes " and " Litte- 
ratur-Geschichte der Synagogalen Poesie " are ))roducts 
of his pen, which exercised no little influence in the 
establishment of the Jewish scientific thought of tlu* 
past century. Tn " Gottesdienstlichen Yortrage " he 
demonstrates, tlint liomelotical disquisitions constituted 

134 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

a part of the ritual of tlie Synago<^ut', since the earliest 
times, and that the character of these disquisitions al- 
ways reflected the civilization of the times and the 
countries in which the Jews lived. The subject was 
scientifically presented. W'liih' Zunz, in this work, 
made propaganda for scientific research in the study of 
history and religion, he was by no means oblivious of 
the dangers, into which mere science could lead the 
Jewish, as well as every other religion. Tradition with 
him, was of great help in withliolding the student from 
unwarranted extremes. It was, therefore, with the desire 
to emphasize the power of tradition, in the polity of the 
Jew, that he produced his works treating of the syna- 
gogal poetry. 

In the field of Biblical criticism, he demonstrated an 
independence of view point, which is nothing short of 
surprising, when Zunz is studied in the liglit of that 
Talmudic tyranny, which still held sway in his time. 
Thus, for example, he recognized the composite char- 
acter of the Pentateuch, and the lateness of some of its 
sections. He states that Genesis, in more than one 
place, proves, that it was composed several centuries 
after the settlement of Israel in Palestine. Jacob's 
blessings he does not consider earlier than the Prophet 
Isaiah's date. Exodus and Leviticus he regards exilic. 
Deuteronomy he finds consisting of three parts. The 
address of Moses in the thirty-second chapter of tliat 
Book, he believes to be a product of the Exile. The 
blessing of Moses he deems the latest stratum of Deu- 
teronomy. The Book of Esther he placed into the 
^faccabean period, and he states, that Koheleth belongs 
to the same age. 

The Xineteenth CENTruv Critics 135 

Zuiiz also ])r()(lii('i'(l a Bible lor lav ix'adiiig, which, 
while basid on tlic Masoivtic tvxl, did not ignore the 
later scholarshij). In this Bible he is responsible only 
tor the Book of Chronicles, the rest of the work having 
been done hv Hevnian Arnheiiii. dulius Fiirst, and 
Michael Sachs. 

Heyman Ahniikim, who was horn in 179(5 and died 
in 1865, was Habbi at Wongrowitz. Having translated 
into German the Book of Job, and written a coni- 
nientarv thereto, and having thus evidenced the hreadth 
of his scholarship, he was invited to hecome Zimz's co- 
laborer in the Bible he planned. 

Julius Fukst was born in 1805 and died in 1873. 
He studied in Berlin, Breslau and Halle. Having had 
for his teachers such men as Hegel, Xeander and Ge- 
senius, in addition to being richly endowed by nature, 
witli strong mental faculties, it is but natural, that he 
should have found his way easily, into the front ranks 
of German Jewish scholars. In his Biblical exegesis, 
ho availed himself of the results obtained from the study 
of Hebrew in the light of its cognate languages. In 
Leipsic he was " Privat-Docent " in Aramaic, Syriac 
and Hel)rew grammar, and in 18()4 the Saxon Govern- 
ment awarded to him the Professor title. In addition 
to his collaboration in the Zunz Bible, he WTote on the 
structure of the Aramaic idiom, published a Hebrew 
and Aramaic dictionary, and a concordance of the books 
of the Old Testament : wrote on the history of Biblical 
literature and tlie Jewish ^fidrashic writings; produced 
a treatise on the canon of the Old Testament in ac- 
cordance with the traditions of the Talmud and 
:\ridrasli: translated Saadia's " Emunoth Wedeoth"; 

13G Jewish Biblical Commentators 

treated the history oi' Karaisiii ; edited a weekly, eailed 
*' The Orient"; and published independently an illus- 
trated Bible, with eoniinentary. 

.Michael Jejiiel Sacils was burn in 18U8, and died 
in l(S(j4. After graduating from the University of 
Berlin, lie became iiabbi in Prague. In 1(S:3.") hu pub- 
lished a German translation of the Psalms, and later 
an exegetical interpretation of the fifty-eighth chapter 
of Jeremiah. He was an authority on the religious 
poetry of the Jews in Spain, having written a book on 
the subject. He also wrote on the relation between the 
Greco-Iioman world and the Midrashim. 

While these four men were serving the cause of Ger- 
man Jewry, Samuel Cahex, who was born in ITiXl 
and died in 1862, was looking after the intellectual and 
religious interests of French Jews. After studying and 
tutoring in Germany, he went to Paris, as director of 
the Jewish Consistorial School. It was he, who gave 
the French Jews a French translation of the Bible, ac- 
companied by careful notes. Cahen, although making 
some valuable contributions to Jewish Biblical literature, 
outside of Germany, hy no means exerted so great an 
influence in his country, as did the great critical schol- 
ars, Isaac Samuel Reggio and Samuel David Luzzatto, 
in Italy. 

Peggio was horn in 1784 and died in 18r)5. He was 
master of French, German, Latin, and the Semitic 
dialects. He was founder of the Rabbinical Seminary 
at Padua. Taking Mendelssohn and the Biurists as his 
exam])les, he translated the Pentateuch, and accom- 
panied it with a Hebrew commentary. He rejected 
Aggadic interpretations, and stands out, therefore, as 

The Nineteenth OENTrijv (ijitics 13T 

a cliaiHpioii of tlu' iiatui'al sense ol' Seriptures. Al- 
tliouiiii he felt that the l)ihlieal text was well ])reserve(l, 
he eoiifessed that a luiiiiher of serihal erroi'S, I'ouiid their 
way into it. 

Samiki, D.vvin Ijzzat'I'o was horn in l.soo, and died 
in 180^). Already in his earlv youth, he uaye sio-ns of 
extraordinary ahility. It is told of him, that while at- 
tending- seliool, he coneeiyed tlie idea of wi'itin,<i- a com- 
mentary on the Book of Joh, feeling-, that existing com- 
mentaries were unsatisfactory and misleading. Lnz- 
zatto wrote a translation of the Pentateuch, with a com- 
mentary, a translation of Joh, a translation with com- 
mentary on Tsaiah, and notes on Jeremiah, Rzekiel and 
the Proye-rlis. In 1817, he ])uhlished " Maamar Ha 
Xikkud." a treatise on yowels. The Syriac language 
found in liim a master, whose employment of the same, 
led to the l)etter understanding of the Targum, "Realiz- 
ing the imperfect condition of the Hehrew text of the 
Bihle, lie suo^oested numerous emendations. His belief 
that Koheleth was not written by King Solomon shows 
his departure from long hallowed teaching. 

With the excepti(m of Tahen's, Peggio's and Luzzat- 
to's contributions to Biblical research, all the work in 
this line, which is of any consequence to the science of 
Judaism, fell to the lot of German scholars. It is. 
therefore, that we return to Germany, in our examina- 
tion touching the development of Biblical exegesis. 

A translation of the Bibb in German was produced 
by SoLOMOX Het^xhetmek. who was born in ISOl, 
studied at Marburg and Gottingen. and died in 1SS4. 
His Bible, accompanied by a running commentary, seeks 
to translate the Scriptures literally, and to interpret the 
same from the grammatical and historical points of view. 

138 Jewish Biblical Commentators 

Almost simultaneously witli Ilcixlieiiner's translation, 
LiDwiG PiiiLiPi'soiiN produced one. Fie was Ijorn in 
1811, was educated in Halle and Berlin, was preacher at 
Magdeburg; edited '' iJie Allgemeine Zeitung des Juden- 
thums," a Jewish weekly; published works on the devel- 
opment of the religious idea in Judaism, Christianity 
and the Islam, and on political and religious problems, 
thus making propaganda for the further emancipation 
of Jews; wrote poems and historical novels; and died 
in 1889. His Bible was illustrated, and contains a com- 
mentary, in which are reflected the best conclusions of 
Jewish and Christian interpreters. In his introductions 
to the various books, he gives their character, " Tendenz " 
and history, and a psychological study of each one of 
the prominent personages of which the books treat. 

Levi Herzfeld^ who was born in 1810, educated in 
Berlin and was Rabbi at Brunswick, was one of the 
factors to convene the first Eabbinical convention in 
Brunswick, wrote a history of Israel, treated Hebrew 
stems, translated and commented the Book of Koheleth, 
and died in 1884. 

One of the principal men in the field of Biblical ex- 
egesis, as influenced by the spirit of the science of Juda- 
ism, and one that is worthy col laborer of Zunz, is 
Abraham Geiger. He was born in 1810 and died in 
1874. His education in Biblical and Talmudic lore, 
was thorough from the very start. His scientific educa- 
tion, undertaken for the purpose of subsequent devotion 
to Oriental philology, was obtained at the universities 
of Heidelberg, Bonn, and Marburg. He was Kabbi at 
Wiesl)ad('ii. tlion at Breslau. and later in Berlin. In the 

The Nineteenth Century Critics 1:')() 

last iianit'd place, he bctaini' one of the teachers of the 
Institute for tlie Promotion of the Science of Judaism. 

One, of his first publications was " Was hat Moham- 
med aus dem .ludentliume aufgenommen? '' He pub- 
lished a Jewish theological review, a Jewish journal of 
science and life, a text-book of the language of the 
Mishnah. a monograph on Maimonides, studies on the 
Hebrew grammarians, Jewish poets, Jewish history, 
Jewish philosophy, comparative religion, and Jewish 
Biblical exegesis. His principal work, which gives him 
a prominent place in Biblical criticism, was his " Ur- 
schrift und Uebersetzung der Bibel " — the original text 
and translation of the Bible. It treats the history of 
the Scriptures, from the Exile to the times of Hadrian, 
Emperor of Eome, and deals with the causes for the 
existence of the different recensions. In the course of 
this treatise he makes a critical investigation of the 
different books of Scriptures, Biblical institutions, Jew- 
ish sects and their tendencies, the different ancient ver- 
sions, the Apocryphal Writings, the Tetragrammaton, 
and the various names of God. It is this book which 
has value not only for the Jewish Biblical scholar, but 
has also found its way, as authority, into the schools of 
Christian Biblical students. 

Although Geiger's exegetical position has been com- 
mended and adopted generally in scientific circles, by 
Jewish and non-Jewish scholars, it did not escape at- 
tack. One of his most bitter opponents, although or- 
iginally an ardent friend and admirer of Geiger, was 
Samson I^aphael Hirsch, the leader of the Jewish 
orthodox movement in Germany. He was born in 1808 
and died in 1888, as Tlahbi, in Frankfurt on the Main. 

140 Jewish Biblical CommektaTors 

He was a jn-ofoiuul Talmudic scholar, but did not fail 
to combine with his Talmudic knowledge, the academical 
training obtained at the rniversity of Bonn, at the same 
time Geiger attended that institution. Hirsch wrote a 
number of brochures, in which he defended Jewish 
orthodox theology and criticism against the newer con- 
clusions of the science of Judaism, edited a monthly 
entitled " Jeshurun," produced a translation of the 
Pentateuch, and another translation of the Psalms with 

A man, who studied the Bible from the critical point 
of view, despite the conservatism of his theology, was 
Heinricit (tRAETZ, the celebrated Jewish historian. He 
was born in 1817, and died in 1891. He was a grad- 
uate of the university of Jena, ol)taining his Doctorate 
on a dissertation entitled " Gnosticism and Judaism." 
He first had expected to follow the journalistic career, 
l)ut in 1854 he became professor in the Eabbinical Sem- 
inary at Breslau, teaching simultaneously at the Univer- 
sity of Breslau, after having received from the Govern- 
ment the title of Professor. Graetz took an active part 
in the furtherance of the work of the " Alliance Israelite 
Universelle.'^ waged war against anti-Semitism by word 
of mouth and pen. and won for himself immortality by 
his history of the Jews. Ta addition to articles con- 
'tributed by him to Frankel's Afonatsschrift on Biblical 
subjects, he became a direct contributor to Biblical ex- 
egesis bv his translations of, and commentaries on, Ec- 
clesiastes, Canticles, and the Psalms. 

With regard to Ecclesiastes he holds, that it must 
have been written in the Maccabean times, and that the 
Kinof alluded to in the book, must be the Tdumean, 

The Nineteenth Century Critics 141 

Herod. He makes niiinerous emendations in the text, 
and points out the numerous Grecisms the author em- 
ploys. Of Canticles he holds that it came into existence 
in the Macedonian period, shortly before Hellenistic 
a|)ostacies took place in Judea, probahlyahairofa century 
before the Maccabean Wars. Of the Book of 1 Valine he 
claims, tliat it is composite in character, and hence, doubts 
the Davidic origin of the greatest number of them. He 
does not luvMtate to change the text, at times, in these 
Biblical books. In addition to these works. Emendations 
of the text of Isaiah and Jeremiah were also published. 
Some of the Jewish critics, who reflected the modern 
higher criticism, are Kaufman Kohler in ]iis ''Blessing 
of Jacob" and Canticles, and Claude iMonteflore in his 
" Bible For Home Keading.'' 

Xnmerous other persons could be mentioned in the 
treatment of Biblical research carried on during the 
Xineteenth C^entury, who have added 1)y the discussion 
of separate books and separate component chapters of 
the Scriptures, to the existing wealth of exegetical 
knowledge. They are, however, not necessary in an at- 
tempt to convey a clear idea as to the part Jews played 
in that discipline which is calculated to rid the Biblical 
thought of the overgrowth nurtured l)y theological bias 
and the preconceived notions as to ilie intent of the 
greatest book found in the lil)rary of mankind. The 
men treated, prove lieyond the shadow of doubt, that the 
objects cherished in the c\dtivation of tlie science of 
Judaism were to lu'ing about the return to the natural 
sense of Scrij'ji ures. to strengthen tlie hold of the 
Biblical thoiight upon the mind of humanity, to recast 
Judaism, as well as other denominations bv the aid of 

142 Jewish Biblical CoMMENTAXuifs 

pliilosopliical researcli, and to promote the cause of that 
hip:lier religion, the purpose of whicli is the conservation 
and consecration of truth. Biblical criticism may todav 
be cultivated to a greater extent, outside of Jewry, than 
witliin it: and yet tlie fact cannot be gainsaid, that all 
who are building today the massive structure of ex- 
egesis, are building on the foundation laid by the Jew- 
ish savants, and with the material they have left in the 
form of discoveries and conclusions to the present gen- 
eration of scholars. Although the indebtedness of the 
modern critic to the Jewish researches is acknowledged 
by many, the time will come when the scribes, beginning 
with Ezra, the Eabbis of ^[ishnah. Talmud. Targumim 
and Midrashim. the Karaites and Saadia. the Gram- 
marians and Lexicographers, Rashi, the Tossafists, Tbn 
Ezra, the Kimchis, Maimonides, ISTachmanides, Mendels- 
sohn and the Biurists, Zunz, Philipsohn, Geiger, Samson 
Raphael Hirsch, Graetz, and others, will be regarded 
everywhere indispensable links in the development of 
Biblical exegesis, and when the Jewish presentation of 
the Bible will be looked upon as having a message worthy 
of the highest regard, in the explanation of the intent 
and meaning of Scriptures. 



Abraham, I.: Jewish Literature. 

Backer, W. : Jiidisctie Bibel — Exegese, &c. 

Die Bibel Exegese Moses Maimuni's. 

Agada der Tanaiten. 

Agada der Palast. Amoraer. 

Baeck, S.: Geschichte des Jiidischen Volkes. 
Brann, M. : Geschichte der Juden. 
Dessauer, J.: Geschichte der Isrseliten. 
Dup.NOw, S. M.: Jewish History. 

FuRST, I.: Geschichte des Karaeerthums. 


Frjedlaxder, M.: Translations of the "Guide of the Per- 
plexed of Maimonides." 
Geiger, A.: Urschrift und Uebersetzung der Bibel. 
Nach-gelassene Schriften. 

Judaism and its History. 

Was Hat Mohammed Aus Dem Judenthume Aufge- 


Graetz, H.: Gnosticismus und Judenthum. 



Das Hohelied. 

History of the Jews. 

Emendationes, etc. 

JosT. M.: Geschichte des Judenthums. 
Herxheimer, S.: Bibel. 
Herzfeld, L.: Geschichte Israels. 
HiRscH, S. R.: Pentateuch. 
Ibn Ezra: Commentary. 
Jewish Encyclopedia. 
Jewish Qtarterly Review. 
Joel. M.: Geschichte der Philosophie. 

1-iG Jewish Biblical Co.m.mkntatoks 

.Top:l, M.: Blicke in die Religionsgeschichte. 
Kaki'klas, G. : Geschichte der Jiidischen Literatur. 

Jewish Literature and other Essays. 

Jews and Judaism in the Nineteenth Century. 

KoHLER, K.: "Der Segen Jakobs." 

Magnus, Lady: Outlines of Jewish History. 

Maimonii>es: More Nebuchim. 

Margolis, M.: Theological Aspect of Reform Judaism. 

Marshall, L. : Leopold Zung. 

Mendelssohn, M.: Gesammelte Schriften. 

Commentary to Pentateuch. 

MiDRA.sHi.M. i. e., Rabba, Yalqut, Tanchuma, Targumin, 

Mechiltah, Sifra, Sifre. 
MiELziNER, M. : Introduction to the Talmud. 


MoNTEFioRE, C. : " The Bible for Home Reading." 

The Hibbert Lectures. 

Nachmantdes: Commentary. 

Neubafer, a.: Geschichte des Karseerthums. 

Phtltpson, D.: The Beginnings of the "Reform Movement 

in Judaism." Jewish Quarterly Review. 
Phillipsoiix. L. : Bibel. 

Welt-bewegende Fragen in Politik und Religion. 

Blicke in die Religionsgeschichte. 

Rasht: Commentary. 
Hamburger, J. Real: Encyclopadie. 
RiTTER, J. H.: Geschichte der Jiidischen Reformation. 
Saadia: Emunoth Wedeoth. 
S.\('HS, M.: Bibel. 

Saussayk. P. D. C. Dk La: Religionsgeschichte. 
SciTECHTER. S. : Studics in Judaism. 
SciiRETBER, E.: Reform Judaism and Its Pioneers. 
Spiegler. J. S. : Geschichte der Philosophie des Judenthums. 
STEiNsciiNEinER. M. : Allgemeine Einleitung in d. jued. Lit. 
d. Mittelalters. 

Die Arabische Literatur d. Juden. 

Die Geschichtsliteratur d. Juden. 

Die hebraeischen Uebersetzungen d. Mittelalters. 


Ukijlrwkg, F. : History of PhUcsophy. 


ZuNZ, L. : Gesammelte Schriften. 

Die Gottesdienstlichen Vortrage der Juden. 

Synagogale Poesie des Mittelalters. 

Veak Book Central Conference of American Rabbis, Vol. 
XV, Rashi. 



Aaron Ibn Saif>ado, 4.). 

Abarbanel, Don Isaac, U'). 

Ahliassi, .Tacnl), Kid. 

Ahraliani lu'n David. H>6, MT. 

AV)iahani ben Miir Ibn K/ra. SO, 10.'). 

Abu Kathir, 42. 

Abulafia Meir Hab>vi. KHJ. 

Abuhvalid, 5S, lOo. 

Achai b. Rabbi .Tisbainh. ■2-2. 

Akibah, 14. 20. 22. 

.\lbo. Joseph, 114. 

Alfazi. 21, 107. 

.\lniohades, 97. 

.\moraim, 35. 

.\mulo, 65. 

.\nan ben David, 36. 

Andalusia, 53. 

.Anti-Exilarch, 37. 

Aqila, 29. 

.\ristotelianism, 15. 101. 

Aristotle, 96, 102. 

.\rnheim. Heyman, 135. 

.\sher ben .Techiel, 115. 

Ashi, 17. 

Aufiustine, St., 13. 

Bachva ben Asher, 115. 

Ra(hva Ibn Pakuda, 89. 

Barcelona, 107. 

Batavian National Assembly, 1.30. 

Bedarshi, 106. 

Beer, .Jacob Herz, 132. 

Beraitha, 21. 

Bemhard, Isaac, 118. 

Biurists, 123. 

Bonnet, 118. 

Cahen, Samuel, 1.36. 

Cassiodorus, 13. 

Celsus, 13. 

Channanel ben Chushiel, 45. 

Charizi, 100, 101, 106. 

Charlemaerne, 64. 

Chasdai Ibn Shaprut, 52. 

f'hayyup, 105. 

Chushiel, 50. 

fordova. 51. 

David ben Isaac Kimchi, 89, 106. 

David, Exilarch, 43. 

Derash, 18, 25, 36, 68. 

Detmold, Samuel, 123. 

Dubno, Solomon, 122. 

Dunash Ibn Labrat, 54, 55. 

Eleazar Ashkenazi, 115. 

Eleazer ben .lohudah, 115. 

Eliezer, 19. 

F-ssenism, 37. 

Euchel, Isaac, 123. 

E.vilarch, 33. 

E.xten.sion and Limitation, 20. 

Ezra, 15. 

Ezra, Ibn, 44, 59, 68, 74, 80, 103. 

Favum, 42. 

Fra Paolo Christian!, 107. 

Frankel, David. 117. 

French National .\s.sembly, 130. 

Fuerst, .Julius, 135. 

Gabirol, 89. 

Gamliel I, 26. 

Cans, Edward, 132. 

Oaon, 34. 

Gaonate, 38. 

Geiger, .\braham, 1.3S. 

Gershon, Rabbenu, 65. 

Gesenius, 135. 

Graetz, Heinrich, 140. 

Gumpertz, 117. 

Habus, 59. 

Hadrian (Emperor), 14, 20. 

Hadrian (the Greek), 13. 

Haggadoth. 18. 

Hai,' 45. 

Halakoth, 18. 

HaniVnirg, 130. 

Hanafltes, 37. 

Hassandler, .Jochanan, 66. 

Hegel, 135. 

Herder, 119. 

Herod, 141. 

Herxheimer. Solomon, 137. 

Her/feld, Levi, 1.38. 

Hezekiah, 45. 

Hillel, 19. 

Hirscli, Samson Raphael, 139. 

Hivi of Balkh, 4^). 

Homberg, Herz, 123. 

Ishmael, 19, 22. 

Islam, 37, 97. 

Israeli, Isaac, 45. 

.Jabneh, 29. 

.Jacob ben Meir, 74. 

.Jaroslav, Aaron, 123. 

.lehudah, 17. 

.lehudah Halevf, 81. 

Jehudah Karoish, 45. 

Jerome, St., 13. 

.Jonathan, 27. 

.Jonathan b. Uziel, 27. 



Joseph Bechor Shor, 75. 

Jostph ben Isaac Ibn Alfual, 100. 

.Joseph ben Isaac Kinicbi, 88. 

.Joseph ben Simon Kara, 72. 

.Joseph Ibn Abitur, 51. 

.losephus, 29. 

J est, Isaac Marcus, 132. 

Juda ben David Chayyug, 57. 

.Iiidah ben Joseph Alfacher, 100. 

.Judah the Persian, 40. 

Judghan of Hamadan, 4i). 

Junilius, 13. 

Juxtaposition, 20. 

Karaism, 39. 

Karaites. 38. 

Kaspe, Ibn, 106. 

Kimchi, 88. 

Kisch, 117. 

Knapp, 121. 

Kohen, Raphael. 120. 

Kohler, Kaufman, 141. 

Lavater, Johann Kaspar, 118. 

Leibnitz, 118. 

Lessing, 118. 

Levi Ben Gerson, 114. 

Levi Ibn Tibbon, 83. 

Locke, 118. 

Loewe. Joel, 123. 

Lowth, Robert, 121. 

Luther, 70, 121. 

Luzzatto, Samuel David, 137. 

Macon, Council of. 64. 

Maimonides, David, 97. 

Maimonides. Moses, 15, 96. 

Masora, 25, 84. 

Mecklenburg, 130. 

Mekhilta, 21. 

Menahem ben Saruk, 53, 75. 

Menasseh ben Israel, 119. 

Mendelssohn, Moses, 117. 

Methurgeman, 16. 

Michaelis, 121. 

Midrash Haggadol, 25. 

Midrash Rabba, 23. 

Midrash Tanchuma, 24. 

Midrashoth, 18. 

Miqra, 17. 

Mirabeau, 129. 

Mishnah, 17. 

Montefiore, Claude, 141. 

Moses ben Enoch. 50, 53. 

Moses ben Maimon, 97. 

Moses ben Nachman Gerondi, 106. 

Moses ben Shesheth, 116. 

Moses Moser, 132. 

Motekallemin, 96, 102. 

Nachmanides, 106. 

Nahawendi, Benjamin, 40. 

Nahum of Gamzu, 19. 

Napoleon. 130. 

Narbonne, 65, 88. 

Narbonne, Council of, 64. 

Nathan ben Isaac Cohen, 50, 65. 

Nathan ben Samuel, 115. 

Neander, 13.}. 

Nethanel ben Isaiah, 115. 

Nicolai, Friedrich, 118. 

Nicolas de Lyra, 13. 70. 

Nissini ben Jacob, 4.5. 

Nissim ben Moses, 115. 

Obernik, Meir, 123. 

Onqelos, 27. 

Falquera, Ben, 106. 

Paris. Council of, 64. 

Parshandatha, 66. 

Peshat, 18, 25, 43, 68, 73, 84, 108, 

123, 131. 
Peshitta, 29. 
Pesiqta Rabbati, 24. 
Pesiqtah de Rab Kahanah, 24. 
Philippsohn, Ludwig, 138. 
Philo, 29. 

Pirqe de Rabbi Eliezer, 24. 
Porphvry, 13. 
Prague, 133, 136. 
Prussia, 130. 
Pumbeditha. 34, 43. 
Qabbalah, 108. 
Rabbina, 17. 
Rabbinism, 41. 
Rabbinites, 38. 
Rabe, 123. 
Rabhad, 106. 
Rambam, 97. 
Ramban, 106. 
Rashbam, 73. 
Rashi. 66. 
Redak, 89. 

Reggrio, Isaac Samuel, 136. 
Resh Geluthah, 33. 
Rikam, 88. 
Rumahis, Ibn, 50. 
Saadia ben Joseph, 42. 
Sabbathai Donnolo, 45. 
Saboraim, 35. 

Sachs, Michael Jehiel, 1.30. 
Sadduceism, 37. 
Salman ben Jerucham, 42. 
Samoscz, Israel, 117. 
Samuel ben Chofni, 4.'). 
Samuel ben Meir, 73. 
Samuel ben Nissim, 115. 
Samuel Hanagid, 59. 
Samuel Ibn Nagdela, 58. 
Samuel Ibn Tibbon, 98. lOi, 106. 
Santes Pagninus, 13. 
Sarachya Halevi, 107. 
Sassinades, 34. 
Schechter, 109. 
Schulchan Arukh, 114. 
Seder Olam, 23. 
Septuagint, 29. 
Shemaryah, 50. 
Sherira, 45. 
Sifra. 21. 
Sifre, 21. 

Simon ben Zemach Duran, 115. 
Solomon ben .\braham, 106. 



Solomon 1)011 Isaac, 66. 
Sora, 34, 42. 
Spener's Journal, 133. 
Spinoza, 113, 118. 
Talmud, 17. 
Tarn Rabbenu, 75. 
Tanaim, 21, 35. 
Tanchuma, 24. 
Targums, 26, 44. 104. 
Toledo, 81. 
Tortosa, 53. 
Tns«>fta, 21. 

Tossaftsts, 72. 

Trovt'S, 66. 

Tuiini, 114. 

Wellhausen, 13. 

VVesselv, Naphtali Hcrz, 

Westphalia, 1.30. 

Wolfsohn, Aaron, 123. 

VVoiius, 66. 

Yalqut Ha Makiri, 25. 

Vahiut Shinioni, 24. 

Yisdal, 102. 

Zun/., Loopold, 24, 132. 


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